How did the Cudahy Historical Society come to own the Depot? That's a story in itself. In 1971, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad had abandoned the building and moved into a compact brick office next door. The depot was so neglected and in need of repairs that the City of Cudahy condemned it and demanded that the railroad either raze it or repair it.
A group of citizens said, "No way! The Depot should be preserved." They battled the city and the railroad and formed the Cudahy Historical Society to give strength to their efforts
When they discovered that the family of city founder Patrick Cudahy owned the land on which the depot stood, they had a bargaining tool. With the Cudahy family's co-operation they acquired the depot in 1978.
The north end of the building, the freight room, was sagging badly because it had no foundation. Working nearly every day that fall, including Thanksgiving, men dug a four-foot trench, put in an eight-inch footing and laid five courses of cement blocks.
Tomaro Contractors loaned the hydraulic jacks and managed to get some scarce concrete for the project. Interior repair work, cleaning, scraping and painting were all pushed ahead by volunteer crews. Total cost for the first phase of restoration was $150.
It took until 1992, the hundredth birthday of the depot, to finish the major restoration. In that time, a fence was erected between the tracks and the depot, for safety. A new roof was added, the depot was painted in authentic colors. The poured concrete floor was removed to expose the original oak floor. The colored glass windows were repaired and replaced; the interior was plastered. The former baggage room could be used to store and catalog artifacts after the shelving was painted. Now, an iron gate keeps the artifacts safe and records and precious photographs stored in metal files. A gas furnace and a security system were installed.
The exterior was landscaped and large signs added. One is movable and used for announcements of meetings and events.
In its first years, the Society met at the First National Bank of Cudahy and the Cudahy Marine Bank. It was a great day when the old depot could be used for organization and board meetings. Since then it has opened its doors to class reunions, wedding receptions, a regional historical society convention, and many, many tours by school children. They sit on the floor and listen to Priscilla Schroettner talk about how Cudahy came about and how people lived and worked in the early 20th Century.
The Cudahy Historical Society meets its expenses and maintains the building with a variety of fundraisers. Over the years they've held rummage sales, bake sales, "Spring Days,"Santa's Secret Gift Shop, and "Christmas at the Depot." The most successful event to date has been a bicycle auction, held with the Cudahy Police Department.
The Society has worked mightily to restore the sagging old structure. Many volunteers have donated time, money, and labor to restore and maintain it. Businesses, individuals, and civic groups have been generous. The Patrick and Anna M. Cudahy Fund alone donated $80,000. Three special celebrations have marked the society's history since its beginning.
The May, 1987 burial of a time capsule at the foot of the Patrick Cudahy rock. It will be unearthed in the year 2037.
1992, the depot's 100th year, celebrated with a program on May 23, the circus train stop, an ice cream social and trolley rides, and a Centennial Dinner at Pulaski Inn.
1998, Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial, which the society marked with "Settler's Day" at the Depot. Cudahy's ethnic groups entertained and brought displays. A pageant commemorated the coming of the immigrants to the city, and a trolley took passengers past Cudahy landmarks, past and present. School children rang the old bell in the statewide celebration. A Cudahy history, geared to fourth grade children, was written and published.
Come! See this jewel for yourself. It was once the gate to the city--
The place where immigrants arrived from Europe and Wisconsin farm boys seeking work arrived from Northern Wisconsin.
The station from which men and women left as they went to serve in World War II, 1941-1945.
The shipping point, both sending and receiving, for Cudahy's industries -- Patrick Cudahy, The Federal Rubber Co., the Ladish Co., and George J. Meyer Manufacturing Co., among others.
If you, too, want to help preserve the city's past and enjoy the camaraderie of this organization, come to our meetings or drop us a line or an e-mail letter!
Our Post Office Box # is 332, Cudahy, WI 53110