Sandusky, OH (SKY)
The 1892 depot reflected the city's stature as a growing Lake Erie port. Today Sandusky is known as “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” due to popular Cedar Point amusement park.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2021): 5,164
- Facility Ownership: City of Sandusky
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Sandusky
- Platform Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
The Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited both stop at Sandusky in the early morning hours. The station is unstaffed and passengers generally must wait on the platform or in their vehicles, as the station building is usually closed.
Amtrak restored passenger rail service to Sandusky on July 29, 1979, following an eight year absence. According to Amtrak NEWS, more than 5,500 persons gathered that Sunday morning to watch the westbound Lake Shore Limited tear through a paper ribbon as it made its first official stop at the town’s historic depot, dressed in patriotic bunting. Sandusky was added to the national network due to the area’s population and because there was no intermediate stop between Toledo and Elyria, Ohio.
Attendees enjoyed a station open house, rail exhibits (including a bell from President Lincoln’s funeral train), refreshments and live music from the Barbershop Bobcats quartet and the Keystone Kops band. Local leaders and Amtrak representatives, including Congressman Donald Pease, addressed the enthusiastic crowd. Amtrak Vice President of Government Affairs M.L. Clark Tyler was on hand to accept a chrome-plated spike from City Manager Frank Link to mark the occasion.
The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad (LS&MS) commissioned the current Sandusky Depot in 1892; it replaced an earlier structure dating to 1872. The building was also used by the Lake Erie and Western Railroad connecting Fremont, Ohio located west of Sandusky with Bloomington in north-central Illinois; the Lake Erie and Western used LS&MS trackage from Fremont to Sandusky to reach the depot. The LS&MS eventually came under the control of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad which provided Sandusky with connections to points west and to the upper Midwest and New York City.
By the end of the 19th century, the city of Sandusky had grown into a prosperous Lake Erie port and the new LS&MS Depot was a fitting tribute to the community’s regional stature. The $30,000 structure was designed by the well-known Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge and built by the contracting firm of Adam Feick and Brothers. The Boston architects had taken over the firm headed by Henry Hobson Richardson upon his death in 1886, finishing many of the master’s projects and continuing on in the same aesthetic vein before diversifying later in their partnership.
In time, work by Richardson and his followers was referred to as “Richardsonian Romanesque”—characterized by squat, compact buildings usually constructed with unfinished stone in dark red, tan, brown, and gray hues. The asymmetrical compositions were often pierced by deep-set, round arches reminiscent of Medieval Romanesque structures found in Europe; polychrome decoration was also a common feature.
Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge’s success continued as the partners were commissioned to work on the new Stanford University in the late 1880s and became heavily involved in the planning of the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. The increased work in the Midwest caused the firm to open a Chicago office that was later noted for its design of Prairie style buildings. Building contractor Adam Feick was a German immigrant who arrived in Sandusky in 1852. A carpenter, Feick earned a reputation for his durable craftsmanship and eventually started a contracting firm with his brothers; the team would go on to build numerous structures in the Sandusky area and beyond and was known for its skilled stonework.
For Sandusky, Shepley, Rutan,and Coolidge used the Richardsonian Romanesque vocabulary but adapted it to fit local conditions and materials. The building is composed of an over-sized rusticated foundation upon which rise layers of rock-faced, coursed ashlar Amherst limestone in a buff tone; the layers alternate between courses of two different heights. Local bluestone is used in the trim. A central section is flanked by two lower wings. An unusual feature of the station is a separate baggage room dressed in the same stone that is connected to the main areas of the depot by a covered, open walkway.
The entire complex is surmounted by a hipped-gambrel roof laid with a variegated blue-green Maine Slate that provides a striking color contrast to the buff stone; this type of color juxtaposition was important in Richardsonian Romanesque structures. The edge of the roof as it runs the length of the station and extends down the walkway creates a strong horizontal line associated with the Prairie style structures then being built by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. The horizontality of the station is only broken by the chimney and triangular gables on both the trackside and street side facades that feature compressed Palladian windows typical of Richardson’s work.
The trackside façade is marked by the strong rhythm of rectangular three paneled doors with lights and one-over-one windows; these openings are crowned with one course of stone and then one-light transoms. The transition between the central portion and the wings is highlighted by three sided bays with shallow, conical roofs that intersect the primary hipped-gambrel roofs of the building; visually, this produces an exciting undulating surface. The deep, exaggerated eaves are born by large, sturdy brackets supported on stone bases that project from the walls. The side elevations feature triplet windows.
Typical of its time, the depot had separate waiting rooms to accommodate each gender, as well as a ticket and telegraph office. The telegraph lines early followed the tracks west, and the railroad relied on telegraph communication to pass vital information on to stations and train crew. The interior featured oak trim around the doors and windows, and a band of oak wainscoting on the bottom portion of the walls was complimented on the wall above by a textured “sand-finished” plaster.
Sandusky plays an early role in Ohio’s rail history, as it was an original terminus for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad. Chartered by the state legislature in 1832 and envisioned to run between the lakeside city and Dayton to the southwest, it was the first rail line located entirely in Ohio. Construction did not begin for another three years, but the groundbreaking was marked by a 24-gun salute. The most prominent guest was General William Henry Harrison, future president of the United States and at that time a retired Senator from Ohio. With the governor of Ohio and the president and officers of the railroad, Harrison helped inaugurate construction of the line. By 1848, the $1.75 million railroad had reached 134 miles south to Springfield, Ohio where it connected with the Little Miami Railroad to provide service to Cincinnati on the Ohio River.
The first steam locomotive to ply the tracks was the Sandusky, which had been shipped from Paterson, New Jersey via the Erie Canal and then Lake Erie aboard a ship that also happened to be named the Sandusky. The original Mad River and Lake Erie Depot rose in 1838 at the northwest corner of Jackson and Water Streets and later became a lumber warehouse. The Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad through many consolidations, mergers, and reorganizations eventually came under the ownership of the Big Four—the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway—which in 1930 was leased by the New York Central System.
Founded in 1816, the settlement that became Sandusky was first known as Portland and was laid out in 1817 by Zalmon Wildman of Connecticut. A year later, Wildman and a fellow settler from Connecticut platted a town under the name of “Sandusky City.” Before Ohio existed, the land south of Lake Erie—referred to as the “Western Reserve”—belonged to Connecticut, as many of the original thirteen colonies theoretically spanned the continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In 1792, the Connecticut legislature had reserved an area in present-day northwestern Ohio for state residents who had lost their homes and property due to British action during the Revolutionary War.
The exact origins of the name remain unclear, but there are two theories as to its origin. Some historians claim that the name is a corruption of the surname of a local Polish fur trader who went by “Antoni Sadowski” or “Jacob Sodowsky.” The more accepted explanation is that the name comes from an Anglicization of the Wyandot American Indian phrase “San-too-chee” which means “cold water,” a likely reference to the Sandusky River that flows into Lake Erie. The term “Sandusky” had been used in the mid-18th century for an eponymous fort built by the British during the French and Indian War. The fort was used to protect British trade in the Ohio Country and to act as a bulwark against the French and their American Indian allies to the north. In 1763, Ottawas lead by Chief Pontiac overran the fort and killed all thirteen British defenders.
The Wyandots occupied part of northern Ohio after the Iroquois Confederacy drove them out of southern Ontario. The Wyandot and other American Indian groups were later defeated by the American forces in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers and were forced to give up their Ohio lands under the Treaty of Greeneville.
As the Northwest Territories developed in the first half of the nineteenth century, Sandusky’s harbor allowed it to grow as a port. It exported wheat, corn, and coal from the Ohio interior while thousands of immigrants arrived to start new lives or to rest before moving further west. By 1916, the author of a history of Sandusky could boast of the city’s five railroads which included the LS&MS, Lake Erie and Western, Baltimore and Ohio, and the Big Four. Factories produced marine motors, paper products, wood wheels, sand for building, and most important, fish. In 1915 alone, Sandusky shipped more than ten million pounds of fish including whitefish, herring, perch, and catfish; the city also hosted the state fish hatchery. This history is recounted at the Maritime Museum, which also has exhibits on shipwrecks, wetlands, boat building, and ice harvesting.
Like other lakeside communities, Sandusky benefitted from a nascent tourism industry in the late nineteenth century. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the growing middle class workforce began to receive benefits like paid vacations. Railroads and steamships made it easier to access far away destinations, and entrepreneurial writers authored guidebooks that described what tourists should see and do in towns and regions across the nation.
The shallowest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is warmer then its counterparts and therefore popular with beach goers. Sandusky soon played host to new lakeside amusements such as bier-gartens, bath houses, resort hotels, and in 1892, a roller coaster. Most of this activity was concentrated on Cedar Point, a peninsula that juts out into the lake. Since 1870, it has grown into a 364 acre amusement park that has seemingly reinvented itself with each generation. It currently claims the world record for the most roller coasters in a single amusement park—17—and is dubbed “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”
For those with weaker stomachs, the city offers a fascinating history lesson, especially concerning the Antebellum and Civil War periods. Sandusky was an important stop on the Underground Railroad—Harriet Beecher Stowe even mentioned it in her famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where a character and her family make their way to Sandusky in hopes of escaping across the lake to freedom in Canada. Many enslaved people who had escaped were funneled to Sandusky where willing ship captains ferried them out of the country.
An elegant Italianate mansion on East Adams Street once belonged to Rush R. Sloane, a lawyer and abolitionist who participated in the Underground Railroad. In 1852, Sloane defended fugitive slaves only to then be prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act for his attempt to aid them. The house of another abolitionist family, the Folletts, is now part of the Sandusky Library system and is run as a museum that presents and protects a local history collection. The Civil War is well represented by Johnson’s Island, located in Sandusky Bay. From 1862-1865, 40 acres of the island were used by the U.S. Army as a Prisoner of War Depot; today nothing of the camp remains.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available