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On March 10, 1869, total sales for the first lots in Blair sold for $100,000. During that summer and fall, the town grew with “great rapidity.” The new town appeared to hold great promise since John I. Blair plotted his new city directly across the river from the Sioux City & Pacific railhead in Iowa.
Almost immediately after the town was established, the railroad set tracks in the city and moved west. By 1875, a depot existed and as noted by John Bell the “company set a good example in the matter of tree planting, having, in the first settlement of the place, themselves planted out a handsome little park directly in front of the depot.” Once the Omaha and Northwestern railroad laid tracks moving north and south, the need for a larger and more advanced depot in Blair became evident.
Chicago & Northwestern (C.& N.W. R.R.)
Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley (F, E & M.V. R.R.)
(Sanborn Map 1902) This was mis-marked.
Sioux City & Pacific R.R.
(S. C. & P. R.R.) (Sanborn Map 1897)
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad (C. St. P. M. & O. R.R.)
The early railroad service in Blair dates back to February of 1869 when the Sioux City & Pacific Railroad finished a line from the Missouri River at Blair west to Fremont (1). In March of that year, the the Railroad completed the first passenger depot in Blair (2), and a part of was used as a hotel and eating-house (3).
The first Depot – Built 1869
This Hotel/Depot was located next to the east/west tracks just west of old Walker Ave., (today 16th Street.) This location was used as a freight depot in the 1880s. The 1889 Sanborn shows the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Passenger Depot located on the north/south railroad line in the corner of old 8th Street (today 13th Street) and Lincoln Street — location of the present day Kelly’s Fish Market (4).
The Second Depot – Built 1880
In 1882 there is mention that “a beautiful passenger depot has been built by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha and Sioux City & Pacific railroads at Blair” (5) causing one to believe that both Railroad lines joined in building a passenger depot. Most likely, these early depots were simple wood framed structures.
The Third Depot – Built 1910
In 1910 (6), a new brick depot was built and it is this building that many of the local people today refer to as “The Old Depot” just north of the corner of 14th & Front Streets.
Its unique design was planned to fit into the “Y” created by two merging railroad tracks. Its elegant interior, with its tiled floors, served many passengers before the last passenger train June 3, 1950. The building stayed empty on the Union Pacific lot until October 19, 1987 when it was quickly demolished with little input from the local citizens.
The tracks through Blair still carry heavy west bound traffic.
1History of Nebraska: From the earliest Explorations of the Trans-Mississippi Region, by J. Sterling Morton and Albert Watkins.
2 History of the State of Nebraska; A. T. Andreas, 1882
(It is noted that the Baptist Minister from Cuming City, the Rev. E.G. Groat, preached the first sermon ever delivered in Blair on the platform of the new depot in April 1869.)
3 History of the State of Nebraska; A. T. Andreas, 1882
“the present Sioux City & Pacific depot was completed in March, 1869, a part of it being used as a hotel and eating-house.”
4 1889 Sanborn Map Sheet 4
5 History of the State of Nebraska; A. T. Andreas, 1882
“The stations opened during the year 1881 are Wakefield, Wayne, Flournoy, Craig and Hiland. A beautiful passenger depot has been built by the C., St. P., M. & O. and S. C. & P. R. R., at Blair.”
“The present S. C. & P. depot was completed in March, 1869, a part of it being used as a hotel and eating-house.”
“The Sioux City & Pacific running through from east to west, twenty miles; and the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha, twenty miles, running through from north to south. These two roads have completed an elegant and commodious frame union depot at Blair. ”
6 Historic Railroads of Nebraska; Michael M. Bartels, James J. Reisdorff. Arcadia Publishing
See also: A Town Named Blair by Lou Schmitz
“The exact location of the Sioux City & Pacific depot is unclear, however, there is thought that is was next to the east/west tracks just west of old Walker Ave., (today 16th Street.) This location was used as a freight depot in the 1880’s. The 1889 Sanborn shows the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Passenger Depot located on the north/south railroad line in the corner of old 8th Street (today 13th Street) and Lincoln Street — location of the present day Kelly’s Fish Market.” 1889 Sanborn Map Sheet 4
Blair Historic Preservation Alliance | P.O. Box 94 | Blair, Nebraska 68008 | email@example.com