St. Joseph, MI (SJM)
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan and opposite Silver Beach County Park, the former Pere Marquette Railroad depot today houses a waiting room and commercial space.
410 1/2 Vine Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 12,651
- Facility Ownership: City of St. Joseph
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of St. Joseph
- Platform Ownership: City of St. Joseph
- Track Ownership: CSXT
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Amtrak station in St. Joseph station was constructed for the Pere Marquette Railroad (succeeded by CSXT) in 1913 on the shore of Lake Michigan and stands opposite the Silver Beach County Park. Its large covered platform, extending to either side of the main building, was likely built to handle heavy summer traffic to and from lakeside resorts. This stucco and wooden structure features a gabled roof and central clerestory windows. The small waiting room occupies a part of one side of the station today, while the rest is occupied by Silver Beach Pizza.
The city of St. Joseph purchased the station from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in 1986 for $10,000. Between 1971, when Amtrak began, and 1984, when Amtrak’s Pere Marquette service began, the station stood unused. The city undertook general building renovations including plumbing, heating, and air conditioning, electrical repairs and upgrades, surface repair and painting, the installation of new windows, a new roof system and a parking expansion. The renovation was undertaken to make the property functional again with the aim of bringing in a commercial tenant. It was not a historical renovation.
In consideration for the city committing to operate the renovated facility as a terminal for 20 years following the project completion, a dedicated waiting area was constructed as part of the renovation. The entire project began in 1988 and was completed in mid-1989. The renovation cost approximately $352,000 and was funded in part by the Michigan Department of Transportation. The state contribution was $140, 000, and the remaining costs were funded by the city’s Lakefront Tax Increment Finance Authority. Since the renovation, several restaurants have operated in the station and its current occupant has been in the station since 2005. This restaurant conducted significant renovation and redecoration of the facility; most of the visible work, except for the windows, has been theirs.
The city of St. Joseph is sited at the mouth of the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan, once a key water route for Native American commerce and travel for both the Potawatomi and Miami peoples, connecting with the Sauk Trail, which was the major trail through Michigan prior to European settlement. The mouth of the river was discovered in 1699 by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who built Fort Miami on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. However, this occupation was short-lived, and the next permanent European settler at this location was William Burnett, who started a trading post there in 1780. In 1829, Calvin Britain, a teacher from the mission at Niles, came west to the lake-side bluffs and platted the village shortly thereafter as Newbury, after a coastal town in Massachusetts. As St. Joseph, the village was incorporated in 1834 and as a city in 1891.
The first water route across Lake Michigan between St. Joseph and Chicago began in 1825 with small owner-operated vessels. Gradually, shipping out of Benton Harbor grew, as well as passenger traffic. In 1874, the Graham Morton Transportation Company was founded, a steam line that until the1950s.
To protect shipping, the St. Joseph lighthouse was built first on the bluff overlooking the water in 1859, but replaced in 1906 with structures on the north pier that stand out into the lake, with an outer light constructed on the end of the pier and an inner light, added in 1907. In 2008, the Coast Guard deemed the lights excess, and offered them to eligible entities. The city of St. Joseph has been seeking to acquire and restore the historic north pier lights since 2009.
In 1870, the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad extended its line from New Buffalo to St. Joseph, thereby connecting it to Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Chicago. Prior to this, the only direct connections were by water. This rail line was eventually incorporated into the Pere Marquette Railroad.
In 1896, Augustus Moor Herring applied for what may have been the earliest patent on a heavier-than-air steerable aircraft. Financed by Matthias Arnot of Elmira, New York, Herring developed his flying machine in St. Joseph, Mich., and managed short sustained flights in October of 1899. Hang gliders today still steer as Herring did: by shifting their weight. Had President McKinley not been passing through the area when Herring flew at Silver Beach in St. Joseph, his news may have scooped the Wright Brothers’.
At the turn of the 20th century, Berrien County and St. Joseph became a favored destination for summer vacationers seeking to escape the heat and crowds of Chicago. As early as 1868, travelers had come for the cooler summer breezes and fresh fruit for which the region was and is well-known. Upper-class industrialists as well as blue-collar workers came, first by steamer and then by train, and the summer resort business boomed for decades.
Silver Beach, where Herring had flown his pioneering aircraft, sits beneath the bluffs of the city, and became home to the Silver Beach Amusement Park, a favorite of the summer visitors, from 1891 to 1971. Logan Drake established the 20-plus-acre park on sand dunes purchased from the local Native Americans, built cottages, boat launches, a beach pavilion and water attractions as well as a boardwalk. Bowling and boxing were popular attractions at Silver Beach, as was its penny arcade and later amusement park attractions and beer garden. When the lake began leaving a wider beach in 1902, a carousel and organ were imported from Germany and installed, with hand-carved horses wearing jeweled saddles. The carousel was enlarged and the organs expanded as well in the 1920s.
The park, which became difficult to police in the late 1960s, was finally closed in late 1970. Silver Beach, however, continues. For many years, it was home to the annual Venetian Festival, which saw more than 100,000 visitors during a four-day event. In 1997, the community organized to restore the carousel; however, their fundraising could not meet the nearly $1 million that would be required to restore the antique. In 2003 a private organization from Washington State purchased it and is in the process of restoring it.
Benton Harbor and the city of St. Joseph are known locally as the “Twin Cities.” Benton Harbor was founded by Eleazar Morton in 1836, when he moved his family onto acreage on high ground west of Ox Creek, approximately in the center of the city’s downtown today. At that time, a wetland lay between them and the St. Joseph River. Sterne Brunson, with Morton and Henry Hull, built a mile long canal through the marshes for the convenience of farmers on the east side of the river, and thus their settlement came to be known as Brunson Harbor. Brunson Harbor became Benson Harbor in 1865 and the growing settlement incorporated as a village in 1866. Tourism and fruit farming grew the village into a city, which was incorporated in 1891. In 1903 the Israelite House of David, a communal society, was founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in Benson Harbor. Located on a large tract of land east of the city, their amusement park and baseball team became famous nationwide and attracted thousands of visitors.
St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are home to a household name: Whirlpool. In 1911, Louis Emory and Frederick Upton began a business that produced household washing machines. After a merger with Nineteen Hundred Corporation, they began marketing a machine in 1948 under the Whirlpool brand. The Whirlpool Corporation today has its world headquarters outside Benton, and is one of the top ten employers in Michigan’s southwest region.
Today, St. Joseph’s harbor is a commercial harbor that receives bulk goods such as limestone, sand, slag, and bulk cement. The region is also known not only for its prolific fruit production but for its wineries. In 1986 Benton Harbor was designated an Enterprise Zone by the state of Michigan to encourage economic activity.
The Pere Marquette is financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan State Department of Transportation. Amtrak provides ticketing but not baggage services at the Port Huron station, which is served by two daily trains.
- 5 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Wheelchair Lift