Keokuk Union Depot Restoration

Elegant architectural designs, prime real estate, and a communal sense of nostalgia are a few of the reasons train depot restorations are taking place all over the country.  From Vermont to California and many places in between, these projects are offering new life for distressed buildings, which with a little bit of love and support, still have a lot to offer their communities.  This is certainly the case for the Keokuk Union Depot in Keokuk, Iowa.

This historic rail station sits on the edge of the Mississippi River in the south-eastern corner of the state.  It’s been there since 1891 when it was designed by the prominent Chicago architectural firm Burnham & Root which became famous for its contributions to the designs of the earliest skyscrapers in Chicago.

Historic_Site_Marker_copy  Keokuk_Old_Days_Postcard

The depot building was built by the Keokuk Union Depot Company which was owned by the 5 separate railroads that served the Keokuk area.  In the early 20th century the depot was a major hub along routes that ran to major cities, including Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, passenger rail service to Keokuk ended in 1967.  By 1996 the depot building was being used merely for storage by the Keokuk Junction Railway, and in 2011 it was conveyed to the city of Keokuk.  Over the course of the decline in use, the building experienced lengthy periods of neglected maintenance and fell into a deep state of disrepair.

Deteriorated_Depot    Corner_of_Deteriorated_Depot

One of the most extensive projects required to bring the depot back to its former glory is the restoration of the massive roof.  Along with the absence of maintenance, the building has endured several fires, including one caused by a lightning strike in 1937 which resulted in the removal of the original central tower.  Restoric, LLC has been hired to manage the process of rebuilding the original roof, including the tower, a project that is slated to be complete by summer of 2017.

Abatron was called in for a product demonstration because of the extensive damage to the wooden brackets that support the eaves of the roof.  The brackets line the entire perimeter of the building and have developed various degrees of rotting, splitting, and insect damage.

Damaged_brackets_on_building    Brackets_ready_for_prep

A few of the brackets that were deemed unsalvageable will be rebuilt with reclaimed old growth timbers, but the majority of the brackets will receive treatment with LiquidWood® and WoodEpox® prior to being faux finished and reinstalled.  The brackets that can’t be removed will be treated with epoxy in place before being coated.

Product_and_Bracket      Live_Demo

Any pockets of rot on the brackets that can’t be removed will be saturated with LiquidWood, consolidating the rot into a structural material.  Areas where all of the deteriorated wood has been removed will simply receive a generous coating of LiquidWood to ensure a sound substrate and act as a primer for WoodEpox.  The WoodEpox is then used to fill any voids in the brackets and rebuild their original shape.  Small checks and cracks in the wood will be injected with a blend of the LiquidWood and WoodEpox after mixing the two products together to create a more fluid paste.  Finally, after the epoxy cures, the brackets will be sanded, painted, and faux-grained to ensure an extremely durable repair.

Crew_Making_Repairs Side_By_Side_Brackets

When complete, the restored brackets play a vital role in the architectural character of the building.  The picture above shows the process of repairing the brackets with epoxy, coating, and then faux finishing a grain onto the paint with a specialty stain.


The meticulous nature of this restoration project doesn’t end there.  The clay tiles that will be used in the roof restoration are being custom color-matched for authenticity to the original tiles.  The chimney is being rebuilt with salvaged bricks, and the sandstone elements that require restoration will be repaired with composite stone patching materials and architecturally salvaged stone.

For more information and additional photos of this project, follow ABATRON and Keokuk Union Depot on Facebook.  You can also donate to the restoration efforts on the depot’s foundation page.