1890 Patrick Cudahy, a stonemason, foreman and former partner of meat packer John Plankinton, bought land in the early 1890's. Cudahy planned to open a $1 million meat packing operation with his brother and got the Chicago and Northwestern Railway to open a railroad stop. The town (which soon became a city) and the depot, were named after Patrick Cudahy, who purchased 700 acres of land in the area upon which he built his large meat packing plant and plotted home sites for his employees. The railway system, and subsequently the depot, played a big role in Patrick Cudahy choosing to relocate in Cudahy.

The old Cudahy Depot

The Historic Cudahy Depot

1892 The depot land was deeded to the Northwestern Railroad in 1892 by John and Patrick Cudahy and their wives.                        

1893 The railroad built the Depot in 1893. It consisted of men's and women's waiting rooms, a telegrapher's office and an attic for storage. The depot was constructed of hand-hewn timbers with hardwood floors and oak planking nearly a foot wide. The railroad honored Cudahy by making a special stop at his packing plant at 8:00 am daily so that the "boss" would not have to walk the short distance from the depot.

 

1894 Patrick Cudahy could not get local people to work in the hard, dirty, smelly, seasonal job of meat packing. The job was seasonal because there was no refrigeration and meat could be smoked, salted, packed and shipped only in winter months. Patrick Cudahy advertised in foreign language newspapers as far off as Pennsylvania. The ads attracted the very poor who had borrowed to come to America and wanted any chance, to work. Many who came through the Cudahy Depot were Poles, Hungarians and Slovaks who had some experience in meat preparation.

 

1904 In 1904, Patrick Cudahy installed a huge stone (shipped from Michigan) in front of the depot. He also constructed a small fountain and pond and personally stocked it with goldfish. The barn-like depot proved to be a Mecca for immigrants from Poland, Germany and Italy. Ladies enjoyed a separate ticket office and waiting room. High ceilings in the 21 by 90 foot structure allowed them plenty of headroom for their high fashion hats and parasols. An old newspaper account stated that women did not care to be annoyed by uncouth male passengers carelessly cussing and chewing tobacco.

 

1912 Business was booming during World War I. The depot needed more space to store merchandise. A freight room was added to the building in 1912 because Cudahy had grown from a population of 1,854 in 1895 to 3,691 in 1910. A special train called "The Scoot' picked up Cudahy Brothers employees from Milwaukee, took them to work and home again in the evening. When Mr. Cudahy rode on the train he was dropped off in front of the packing house office building.

Cudahy Depot North Yard Sign

1927 Alice Jahn worked at the depot for a few years before 1930. Her boss was station agent White. She remembers how cold and drafty the building was most of the time. The floors were so cold in the wintertime everyone wore boots even with the furnace and pot-belly stove going full blast.

 

1930 Fred Lambert worked at the depot for 40 years, starting as a clerk and becoming a station agent in 1930. He retired in 1957. His son Gene also worked at the depot until he joined the service.

 

1940 The depot was used during the years when the draft for World War II was in effect. Each month Frank Papp and Martin Simuncak went to the depot and gave each draftee a $1 bill and a bottle of beer or soda. With dinners in restaurants costing only 25 cents, this was considered a very generous gift.

1957 Passenger service had already been discontinued and the amount of freight handled by the office decreased when truck and plane service became popular.

 

1971 In 1971 Cudahy Building Inspector Raymond G. Otto condemned the building because it was in need of extensive repairs. The Cudahy Historical Society was formed in 1972 to preserve the depot as a historical landmark and to restore it to its original state for use as a museum and community center.

 

1975 It was abandoned in 1975 and after a few years of negotiating, the Society acquired the deed to the sagging old structure. The land was donated to the society by the Patrick and Anna M. Cudahy Family Trust. Later the Northwestern Company agreed to give the society the depot itself. A fence was constructed around the station. The society now holds a deed to the entire property.

Cudahy Depot Freight Doors
Cudahy Historical Society Time Capsule

1977 Since 1977, the depot has had tender loving care from the many volunteers who donate their time, money and labor to restore it. The north end of the depot, which was beginning to sag through age, has been shored up and the foundation replaced.

 

1978 The Cudahy Historical Society acquired the deed to the Depot.

 

1983 The Depot became a Milwaukee County Registered Landmark.

1987 Time Capsule is buried with instructions to open in 50 years (2037). Reminders placed in City Hall, Depot, and Library. The capsule contains local newspaper, coins, stamps, school records, list of city and school officials, music tape of CHS Band, City Directory, Common Council Minutes, Annual Reports of city departments, bank interest rates, membership list of Cudahy Historical Society, and disease information. Senator William Proxmire commented, "Don't you wish somebody would have done that for you 50 years ago?"                        

Life's Railway to Heaven - Merle Haggard
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