Historic train depot-turned-community center celebrates ribbon-cutting in Clare

A project that has been in the works for nearly two decades has come to fruition in downtown Clare.

The renovation of the historic Clare Railroad Depot was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday, Oct. 12. Officials estimate approximately 150 people were in attendance.

The Clare Railroad Depot will house the offices of the Clare County Visitors Bureau, Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, Clare County Arts Council & Art Gallery, and Great Lakes Central Railway maintenance crew. It will also serve as a community center, with picnic areas, meeting rooms, outdoor bathrooms, and numerous events planned.

The depot is home to many historical artifacts currently on display, including two caboose train cars. It will also serve as a trailhead for the planned Pere Marquette Rail-Trail extension.

Clare City Clerk Diane Lyon hopes to see passenger rail service return to downtown Clare one day.

"The Depot is part of our heritage. Clare wouldn’t be here if the railroads weren’t here," Lyon says.

"This building served our community for years and years. Railroads built communities all across our state and Clare is one."

Originally built in 1887, the original Clare Union Depot was destroyed by fire in 1894. The current building was constructed in the Queen Anne architectural style in 1895.

The depot served passengers of the Pere Marquette and Ann Arbor railroads into the 1950s until passenger service was stopped. Used by maintenance crews for a few years more, the depot was shuttered and sat vacant for decades.

The City of Clare purchased the depot from the Great Lakes Central Railroad Company for $10,000 in 2004. An anonymous donor then donated $10,000 back to the city to cover costs.

Originally inaccessible between two rail lines, the depot was moved to its current site in 2012 when renovations began in earnest.

More than $520,000 has been raised through a mix of foundations and crowdfunding efforts to fully renovate the historic building, plus many more in-kind donations.

MidMichigan Community Action Agency was a major partner on the project, served as the fiduciary, and donated the property of its current site. Other partners include the Clare department of parks and recreation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, Clare County Arts Council, Clare County Historical Society, and numerous others.

The Clare Railroad Depot is located at 201 W. Fourth St. in downtown Clare.

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