Rent the Depot for your community, group, or family activity! For information, visit our Rental and Events page.

Become a Depot member for 2018! Membership levels are Contributing, Supporting, or Sustaining.
Read the letter from Depot Foundation President Janet M. Smith.
Click here to download the Annual Membership Form.

To hear interviews with people who remember the Depot when it was in railroad service, visit our History page.

Preserving the Historic Keokuk Union Depot

In 2011 the City of Keokuk, Iowa, acquired the Keokuk Union Depot from Pioneer Railcorp for the purpose of historic preservation and community use. and leased the associated real estate for 99 years. Erected in 1891, the building was designed by the Chicago architectural firm Burnham and Root. It is notable as one of John Root's last designs for public buildings in his distinctive Romanesque Revival style. Thereafter, with Root's death in 1891, architectural design in North America took a different turn.

How You Can Help

  • To volunteer to help with preservation activities, email the Depot Commission.
  • To donate funds to the preservation effort, visit the Depot Foundation page.
  • Or write to Keokuk Union Depot, P.O. Box 463, Keokuk, IA 52632.

Depot waiting room
The Depot waiting room in August 2012. Photo by Richard Leonard

Architectural features of the Depot include Root's characteristic use of earth tones, arched windows and high-pitched roofline; the interior features an oak-paneled waiting room and octagonal ticket booth. For the history of the Keokuk Union Depot visit our History page.

In 2011 an intern from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago developed an architectural study that resulted in the Depot's being listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (The Register is maintained by the National Park Service.) Restoric LLC, a Chicago firm specializing in the restoration of historic structures, completed a thorough architectural study in 2012 and produced a 180-page Historic Structure Report.

National Register of Historic Places plaque
This bronze plaque records the Depot's listing on the National
Register of Historic Places. Photo by Richard Leonard

The plans drawn up from the Historic Structure Report form the basis for returning the Depot as closely as possible to its 1891 appearance, including replacing the shingled roof with clay tiles and rebuilding the central peaked tower, which was leveled off around 1950. The goal is to restore the building while adapting it to serve the community in a manner consistent with both historic preservation standards and contemporary requirements for public use.

Depot with roof tiling complete
The final stages of roof tiling were completed in October 2018.
Photo by Richard Leonard

Future projects could include restoration of the platform "train shed," restoration of the waiting room's tile floor, conversion of the former baggage room to a kitchen, and relocation of the rest rooms to open up more space in the waiting room for events such as public concerts and private occasions. The Depot already provides a venue for many local events, as is evident from the schedule On the Rental and Events page.

The Depot is located at Johnson and South Water Streets, between the Mississippi River and the limestone bluff along its west bank, and fronts on rail trackage used by BNSF Railway and the Keokuk Junction Railway (part of the Pioneer Railcorp system). The site is a block down-river from the US-136 highway bridge between Hamilton, Illinois and Keokuk.

The Keokuk Union Depot Commission, appointed by the Mayor, administers the preservation project as part of Keokuk's larger Riverfront Development Master Plan. No municipal tax funds are to be used for Depot projects. A separate Keokuk Union Depot Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization, was established in 2012 to raise the necessary funds from grants and private sources.

Depot viewed from bridge, 2014
The Depot in March 2014, before roof restoration was begun,
as seen from the Mississippi River bridge. Photo by John Miller

In 2014 the Keokuk Union Depot Foundation launched a Capital Campaign upon securing a one-third matching grant of $333,000 from the Jeffris Family Foundation toward the projected $1 million-plus cost of restoring the roof. Substantial grants for specific phases of the project from the Iowa Historical Resource Development Program (HDRP) were also instrumental in accelerating the pace of the project by enabling work on the building's eaves and reconstruction of the apex. Grants by local foundations and community groups have contributed to the effort, but a large segment of support has come from individuals who share the vision for preservation of this community resource.

Depot viewed from bridge, 2016
The Depot in December 2016, showing progress in reconstruction
and tiling of the central tower. Photo by Richard Leonard

By the Depot's 125th anniversary in July 2016 the attainment of the funding goal was assured and work on restoring the central tower and tile roof commenced. Major roof restoration work was contracted and was substantially complete by the end of 2017. Smaller projects have been undertaken by a corps of local volunteers. For highlights of the restoration effort, visit our Preservation Activity and Depot Foundation pages.

Depot viewed from down-river end, 2017
The Depot in October 2017, showing complete roof
tiling of the down-river end. Photo by Richard Leonard

Keokuk Union Depot Commission

Thomas Seabold, President
Stephen Celania, Vice-President
Michael Hickey, Secretary
Sandra Seabold, Treasurer

Carla Celania
Douglas Clippert
Abby Etter

Depot Commission meeting
The Keokuk Union Depot Commission meeting at
the Depot, March 2018. Photo by Richard Leonard

The Depot's roof restoration project is supported in part by the Jeffris Family Foundation, the State Historical
Society of Iowa Historical Resource Development Program (HDRP), the Lee County Charitable Fund,
the Keokuk Area Community Foundation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Depot souvenir items Visit the Depot Gift Shoppe!

Depot gift and souvenir items are available. Proceeds go toward the restoration effort. To purchase these items, please click on "Depot Gift Shoppe" above.

You may also support the Depot by registering with Amazon Smile. Once you set up "Keokuk Union Depot Foundation" as recipient of your donations, a percentage of every Amazon purchase benefits the Depot capital campaign. Then change your Amazon bookmark(s) to go to Amazon Smile and it will appear just like your regular Amazon page. (Don't forget to do this with every browser you use, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.)

Do you have a memory of the Keokuk Union Depot, or an old photo? Email it to the Depot Commission.

If volunteers are not present when you visit the Depot, phone one of these numbers to arrange a tour:

 

319-795-4887 (S. Celania)

319-524-1221 (S. Seabold)

217-440-6615 (R. Leonard)

 

1923 postcard view of Keokuk Union Depot from south
This 1923 postcard depicts the Depot from the south (down-river) side, with the baggage carts that were in use when passenger trains served Keokuk.