Winona, MN (WIN)
Located on a sandbar in the Mississippi River, Winona is famous for its arts institutions, Great River Shakespeare Festival and masterpieces of Prairie School architecture.
65 East Mark Street
Winona, MN 55987
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 18,893
- Facility Ownership: Canadian Pacific Railway - SOO Line Railroad Company
- Parking Lot Ownership: Canadian Pacific Railway - SOO Line Railroad Company
- Platform Ownership: Canadian Pacific Railway - SOO Line Railroad Company
- Track Ownership: Canadian Pacific Railway - SOO Line Railroad Company
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Located east of Winona State University’s main campus, the Winona depot was built in 1888 by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, later known as the “Milwaukee Road.” One of the oldest cities in southern Minnesota, Winona possesses a rich railroad heritage dating to the 1850s.
The dark red brick depot, designed by railroad architect John T. W. Jennings, defies easy architectural categorization, but does exhibit characteristics of the Romanesque Revival style popular in the late 19th century, such as the buff, rock-faced stone used to highlight the water table, belt course, quoins and trim around windows and doors. Jennings, who later became the chief architect and superintendent of grounds at the University of Wisconsin, divided the structure into two parts connected by a canopy: the main depot and an annex.
In keeping with the social norms of the period, the building had waiting rooms for men and women (and children) separated by a ticket office in the center. Each space also had its own entrances from the outside. Interior finishes included maple floors, durable Georgia pine woodwork and bronze finishes. Today, one waiting room is still used by passengers and is furnished with heavy wood benches. The other waiting room serves as office space for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), which owns the property.
Trackside, a projecting, three-sided bay allowed the station master an unobstructed view down the tracks. At the roofline, it terminates in a gable, which is balanced by another, larger one on the north façade. Their faces are covered in decorative shingles, which also carry over to the upper walls of the annex to provide additional texture on the building’s surface. The distinctive, multi-angled roofline is achieved through a steep gabled roof with flared eaves and clipped gables. Curved brackets support the deep eaves that protect passengers from inclement weather. Over a century of use, certain decorative features were removed from the structure, including prominent corbelled chimneys, small dormers and a cupola crowning the annex. In the days of presidential whistle-stop tours, the depot hosted presidents Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Following the demolition of Winona’s old Chicago & North Western depot in 1980, citizens turned their attention to the maintenance of the Milwaukee Road station. At the urging of city officials, the CP, which purchased the assets of the Milwaukee Road, embarked on repairs to the roof and windows. Local volunteers raised additional funds for the project and donated their time and labor to help paint the building and landscape the grounds.
Although the station had been served by its own tracks, the CP now uses them for storage and the Empire Builder stops on the mainline tracks, just west of the shelter provided by the station. In part due to its proximity to Rochester and the Mayo Clinic, Winona regularly ranks as the second-busiest station in Minnesota behind Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Prior to the arrival of European-American settlers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the land along the banks of the Mississippi River was visited by bands of Dakota American Indians. Members of the Mdewakantonwan band of the Eastern Dakota occupied various sites in southeastern Minnesota, including the large, flat sand bar along the river that later became Winona. From the 16th-18th centuries, European explorers traveled through the area on missions to explore the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as establish networks for the lucrative fur trade.
Through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi was transferred from France to the young United States. Two years later, Army Captain Zebulon Pike, for whom one of Colorado’s highest mountains is named, was sent to explore the upper reaches of the river. In his diary, he recorded the beautiful landscapes near Winona including the island-dotted river, verdant hills and prairie.
Tales of rich farm and timberlands enticed potential settlers westward. In 1837, the Dakota ceded lands east of the Mississippi, but retained control of the opposite shore. Settlement west of the river did not become legal until 1851 with the signing of the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, in which the Dakota gave up control of millions of acres. The agreements with the federal government opened up the upper Mississippi River Valley to new settlement, especially in what is now southern Minnesota.
Winona, first known as “Montezuma,” was founded in 1851 by Captain Orrin Smith, a steamboat captain who had plied the waters of the Mississippi for decades. Like other rivermen and explorers, Smith knew the area by the presence of a rocky dome—called Sugar Loaf—that rose from the bluffs along the river. Realizing the potential for growth should the area be opened to settlement, Smith laid claim to the ample sandbar, which measured nine miles long by three wide. In 1853, investor Henry D. Huff purchased an interest in the town site and soon renamed it “Winona,” derived from the Dakota word meaning “first-born daughter.”
Although the town was platted within a year or two of its establishment, settlement did not substantially increase until government lands were surveyed and put up for sale in 1855. In response to the land rush, Winona’s population exploded from approximately 815 settlers in 1855 to 3,000 a year later. In 1856, more than 1,300 steamboats dropped anchor at Winona, bringing in people and supplies to feed the prosperous commercial zone near the shoreline. Rapid growth continued until the early 20th century, in part thanks to large influxes of immigrants. Winona boasted substantial German and Polish communities, both of which published their own newspapers and organized social clubs.
For those who decided to put down roots, job opportunities abounded. Winona developed into an important lumbering center, boasting a handful of mills that processed timber from forests of great white pine in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The smell of pulp and wood products wafted through the air, and stacks of finished boards rose heavenward. Winona’s wood mills provided vital building material as people moved further west into the treeless prairie and plains. Following peak production in 1892, the lumber industry quickly waned as the forests disappeared.
The fertile lands west of the city were perfect for wheat production, so that by the 1860s, Winona became a major milling center. In 1870, the town ranked as the fourth-largest wheat shipping port in the nation, and mills responded by utilizing the newest technology to produce premium flour. Bay State Milling, still a prominent feature on the skyline, was founded in 1899 and continues to process and blend grains. Unfortunately, Winona’s grip on the market slipped as the wheat region moved north and west.
An essential element to the success of Winona’s merchants was their access to excellent transportation networks. The Mississippi and its tributaries offered routes into the continent’s interior. Where water bound vessels could not venture, new railroads filled in the gaps. In 1862, local investors organized the Winona and St. Peter Railroad. Two years later, it reached fifty miles west to Rochester. Absorbed into the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in 1867, it made it to St. Peter, Minn. in 1870. From there, it continued into the vast Dakota Territory.
The tracks served by the current depot were originally envisioned as part of the Minnesota & Pacific Railroad, soon renamed the St. Paul & Chicago Railway, to run between St. Paul and Winona. Grading began in 1865 with trains running a regular schedule between the two cities by 1871. That same year, the railroad was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul (CM&StP) as part of a network extending from Chicago to La Crosse, Wis.
To link its rail lines on both sides of the river, the CM&StP used the tracks of the La Crosse, Trempealeau & Prescott Railroad on the eastern shore of the Mississippi. At Winona, they crossed a bridge first built in 1871. To eliminate the need to use another company’s tracks and thereby strengthen its market share, the CM&StP built its own bridge in 1876 between La Crosse and La Crescent, Minn. Tracks were then laid between La Crescent and Winona. Subsequent lines linked Winona with Kansas City, Omaha and other growing markets.
By 1900, Winona could claim more millionaires per capita than any place in the United States, but the decline of lumbering and milling negatively affected the economy. In the 20th century, the town transitioned into an education hub. The Winona State Normal School was founded in 1858 to train teachers. Over the decades, its course offerings increased until it was made into a full university in 1975.
Winona’s wheat and lumber wealth also gave birth to a flowering of the arts, whose gifts continue to embellish the townscape. Apart from charming residential neighborhoods, architecture lovers delight in a pair of banks that grace the downtown core. Created by disciples of Louis Sullivan, and contemporaries of Frank Lloyd Wright, these buildings exhibit characteristics of the Prairie style, such as compact massing, a horizontal orientation and the use of abstract art glass.
Merchants National Bank, designed by the firm of Purcell, Feick & Elmslie in 1912, is a large cube whose steel frame is clad in rich, buff colored Pompeii brick. The steel structure allows for uninterrupted facades of brownish-green glass inset with rectilinear patterns in purple, green, orange and red. On the exterior, terracotta ornament in earthy orange tones represents abstracted stalks of grain; inside, murals by Albert Fleury depict scenes of the nearby prairie.
A few blocks away at George Maher’s 1916 Winona National Bank, the Prairie style meets Egyptian Revival. Stained glass by Tiffany Studios features repeating lotuses set against a pale blue and yellow background that bathes the white marble interior in soft colors. Maher also drew up plans for the Winona headquarters of the J.R. Watkins Company, purveyor of spices and medicinal products. The entrance foyer is crowned by a mosaic-encrusted dome, while a window above the main doors depicts a view across water to Sugar Loaf.
Today, Winona’s abundant cultural offerings attract visitors from across the Midwest. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum has a collection of works inspired by water from world-renowned artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe and Winslow Homer. In late summer, the Great River Shakespeare Festival stages a trio of classic Shakespeare plays, while the popular Winona Steamboat Days Festival includes hydroplane racing, a parade, circus, arts and crafts show and other activities for the entire family.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing services at this station, which is served by two daily trains.
- 5 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 12 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Wheelchair Lift