No manmade place is as important to the history of Sandpoint as the historic Northern Pacific Railroad’s corridor which defines – along with spectacular Lake Pend Oreille – the town’s eastern boundary. Constructed in the early 1880s it is quite literally the reason for the existence of the city. Strategically chosen for its readily available natural resources, this point of sand or Sand Point near the railroad’s crossing of the lake was quickly developed as the booming town?s first center.
Replacing an earlier frame structure, the railroad’s present depot was built in 1916 and designed in the Gothic Revival style the only train depot in the state to which this style was applied. The depot served Sandpoint and the railway for decades as passenger traffic waned and railway companies were merged and services consolidated. In 1973 the depot was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This distinction did not prevent the steady decline of the structure, and despite its status as the only depot in the State of Idaho to offer passenger service, the building suffered from decades of deferred maintenance. In 2008, when construction of the new Sandpoint Bypass of US-95 threatened to literally shake the historic building apart, the Idaho Transportation Department invested several hundred thousand dollars in the structure?s stabilization. Years of careful negotiations between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, AMTRAK, and the City of Sandpoint set the stage for a more intense renovation beginning last year financed with funds again provided by the Idaho Transportation Department to compensate for possible disruptions in passenger service. Brick and stonework were cleaned and repointed. In addition, the rehabilitation also included a new roof for the entire building complete with all sheathing and underlayment as well as truss repair, gutters and downspouts; interior plaster and terrazzo were repaired and restored; energy-efficient lighting was installed; and HVAC and plumbing all updated. The renovation has rehabilitated the waiting area for Amtrak passengers, provided ADA restrooms as well as ADA parking and an ADA-accessible platform, and allowed some retail space inside.
Although facets of the project required some alterations to the historic structure, these changes were made with adherence to the Secretary?s Standards. This attention to detail might have perhaps been overlooked without the persistent participation of Preservation Idaho board member Aric Spence, Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan, and the Sandpoint Historic Preservation Commission and public at large. This rehabilitation will enable AMTRAK and the Sandpoint Depot to continue their mission of serving Idaho’s traveling public while meeting the highest standards of the historic preservation.
Preservation Idaho is proud to honor this project with a 2015 Orchid Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.