Built for the Chicago and Alton Railroad, the Richardsonian Romanesque style depot opened in 1891. Decoration includes a stone carved with the town's name and Gothic finials.
119 West Main Street Dwight, IL 60420
- Annual Station Revenue (2015)
- Annual Station Ridership (2015)
|Facility Ownership||Village of Dwight|
|Parking Lot Ownership||Village of Dwight|
|Platform Ownership||Union Pacific Railroad|
|Track Ownership||Union Pacific Railroad|
|20 Long Term Parking Spaces||20 Short Term Parking Spaces||Accessible Payphones|
|Accessible Platform||Accessible Waiting Room||Dedicated Parking|
|Enclosed Waiting Area||Wheelchair Lift|
- Lincoln Service
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Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb, who also designed buildings at the University of Chicago, the Newberry Library and the Chicago Post Office, designed the station in the village of Dwight for the Chicago and Alton Railroad. The depot is one of the few remaining stations between Chicago and St. Louis that still features the architecture of the 1890s.
Opened in 1891, the 75-foot by 25-foot depot was built in the Richardson Romanesque style, replacing a smaller wooden structure that had been on the site since 1854, shortly after the village was founded. On each end a canopy extends the sheltering roof by 30 feet to protect passengers from inclement weather. The original gabled roof with these hipped canopy extensions was made of slate—an incombustible necessity in the age of steam engines.
The foundation is of Joliet stone while the walls above are rock-faced Bedford blue stone from Indiana composed almost entirely of fossil shells. Due to the stone's textured surface, it displays an ever-changing interplay of shadow and light as the sun moves across the sky. Both of the central cross gables have a pair of double-hung windows on the ground floor; the second floor features coupled windows with a Gothic fanlight and the name “Dwight” carved into the stone above it. An elaborate finial tops off each cross gable.
Interiors were originally finished in oak and a similar oil finish was applied to the furnishings. Two waiting rooms, each with a fireplace, occupied the ground floor. Cathedral ceilings in each waiting room had open rafters and oak wainscoting that created a light and airy space. The ticket office stood in the center, marked by a projecting trackside bay that allowed the station master to monitor traffic up and down the rail line. The road master had his desk on the second floor.
In 1946 the interior was remodeled to some extent. The fireplace in the north waiting room was torn out, the ticket office reduced in size and the entire interior painted a tan and light brown combination. The slate roof was also replaced with mule-hide sheeting. New fixtures were put in the restrooms and fluorescent lighting installed. Since 1946, a false ceiling has been added, a gas furnace installed and a shed added under the south canopy.
Just south of the depot stands the stone freight office, which was built in either 1892 or 1893. In 1986 it was remodeled to become the home of the Dwight Chamber of Commerce. Presently it houses the Dwight Main Street Program office.
Service to Dwight on the former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (the successor to the Chicago and Alton) route ceased in 1971, when Amtrak took over passenger service from the railroads, and depot maintenance was subsequently neglected. In 1982, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was then being used as an office and storage space for the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, successor to the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio. In 1986, Amtrak began serving the community.
In 1983, the village offered the Dwight Historical Society space in the Old Village Hall on Chipewa Street; at the time, the depot was being renovated to be used as the Village Hall. When the village built a new Village Complex several blocks from the depot in 1998, it offered the depot to the Dwight Historical Society for its use the following year. The society moved its museum into the north end of the building and opened that attraction to the public in 2000. The south end holds both a meeting room for the society and the present office of the Dwight Chamber of Commerce.
Under the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program, the state of Illinois received $1.2 billion to improve the vital Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor so that passenger trains will be able to attain regular speeds of 110 mph. When completed in 2017, the upgraded line is expected to present a strong transportation alternative for drivers along the congested Interstate 55 corridor.
In August 2015, Dwight officials were joined by representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak to break ground on a new $3.8 million depot. Expected to be completed within a year, the modern 800 square foot facility will include a passenger waiting area, restrooms and other amenities. It will be located approximately one block southwest of the old depot, which will continue to house the Dwight Historical Society museum.
As with other neighboring Central Illinois towns, Dwight began as a locomotive watering stopover. The Chicago and Mississippi Railroad (predecessor to the Chicago and Alton) sent surveyors in the early 1850s to this prairie location, and while the stop was two small buildings and a water tank, James Spencer, Richard Price Morgan, John Lathrop and the brothers Jesse and Kersey Fell of Bloomington participated in laying out a town that they would name for Henry Dwight, who had funded most of the building of this section of the railroad. The Fell brothers were developers who had been instrumental in founding other central Illinois towns, including Clinton, Normal, Pontiac, and Towanda; the other partners were also railroad and civil engineers. The Chicago and Mississippi Railroad was soon succeeded by the Chicago and Alton, and theirs was the first passenger train to stop in Dwight in 1854.
The village, as with others founded in Illinois in the 1850s, was designed without a central square. Instead, it centered around a depot ground: a widened area of railroad property, about 1,000 feet long by 200 feet wide, and thus the East and West Main Streets in Dwight bracket the tracks in the center of town.
The best-remembered event in the village’s early history came at 6:27 p.m.—so important an event that the time was recorded—on Saturday, September 22, 1860, when Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Albert stepped off the train in Dwight for a week of hunting prairie chickens and quail while visiting James Spencer, one of the town’s founders. Prince Albert went on to become England’s King Edward VII and the people of Dwight are still pleased to talk about that visit. In 1878, Spencer’s house, where the Prince stayed, was improved by well-known American architect Ossian Cole Simmonds; it was given to the town in the 20th century and has since become Renfrew Park.
The town began growing rapidly in the 1870s, with significant railroad traffic through to Chicago from St. Louis, and the town hired Henry Ives Cobb to design their larger, grander railroad depot. Another equally splendid although quite different historical building stands across West Main Street, the solid and low-slung the Frank L. Smith Bank—now the First National Bank of Dwight—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Prairie style and opened in 1906. Across the depot ground stands the Bank of Dwight, which possesses a less imposing façade but features a large barrel-vaulted skylight and farm scene murals painted by Viennese artist Oskar Gross.
Another organization for which the village is famous is the Keeley Institute, known for the Keeley Cure, a “scientific” method of curing alcoholism with injected gold chloride, begun in 1879. Dr. Leslie Keeley, a Civil War surgeon and John Oughton, an Irish chemist, formulated the process of a gradual month-long treatment that weaned the suffers away from drink gradually. Keeley came to Dwight after the war and continued the study of alcoholics that he had begun among Union soldiers.
The Institute operated until 1965, and took up a number of buildings of note in the village, becoming a major force in the development of the village. The Keeley Cure demonstrated a fundamental shift in treatment, attributing a physiological nature to alcoholism, and while this admittedly commercial process drew sharp criticism from practitioners of traditional medicine at first, it was remarkably humane and successful for its time. The Keeley Institute treated more than 400,000 patients, including 17,000 physicians and many hundred women, and had branches in California, Arkansas, and North and South Carolina. As the founders and their heirs passed away, the institute, once of international fame, died out as well in the 1960s when hospitals began treating alcoholism.
The Dwight Veterans Hospital occupied the old buildings of the Keeley Institute and the Livingston Hotel from 1919 to 1965. The Keeley Building now houses an investment firm, attorney and insurance offices. The Keeley Office Building, built in 1891 and standing across from the depot, was rebuilt after a fire in 1902 into a handsome brick and stone Greek revival structure featuring glass windows made by the studio of Louis J. Millet. Millet was a student of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), a renowned American artist and designer who worked in the decorative arts and is best known for his work in stained glass. He is the American artist most associated with the Art Nouveau and Aesthetic movements.
When the Veteran’s Administration vacated the building in 1965, the state of Illinois took it over and it now houses the W.W. Fox Children’s Developmental Center.
The Lincoln Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at the unstaffed Dwight station, which is served by seven daily trains.