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Restoration Station

A Burnham and Root–designed train depot in small-town Iowa scores a $10,000 preservation grant.

Modern railroad depot with wooden cathedral ceilings

Railroad depots were hot architectural commissions in the late 19th century, and celebrated Chicago firm Burnham and Root—known for designing some of America’s first skyscrapers—were responsible for the 1891 Union Depot in Keokuk, Iowa, a then-thriving transportation hub set at the confluence of the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers.

A red-brick-and-sandstone Romanesque Revival building with wooden cathedral ceilings and a hexagonal ticket booth, the depot was one of the last projects overseen by John Root before he died of pneumonia at age 41. (His partner, Daniel Burnham, went on to further acclaim as an urban planner and architect.) Today it’s one of the duo’s few surviving depots, and though it has suffered from neglect, leaks, and the odd lightning strike, a local commission has vowed to restore the historic building. Christen Sundquist, a recent master’s graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, submitted the project to the Sub-Zero and Dwell Rethinking Preservation contest and won the $10,000 grant, which will help fund a structural analysis survey, the first step in devising a long-term preservation plan.

Click here to view our video of the train station.

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