Historic Brookfield Junction Depot, built in 1867, moves 350 feet for its next assignment: a coffeehouse

Three hundred and fifty feet might not seem like far, but for a 154-year-old structure, years of careful planning and consideration had to occur before a former train depot could make the short move up a hill.

The historic Brookfield Junction Depot building, built in 1867, originally served as a commercial and social hub for the city. But over the years, the building became less and less significant, most recently serving as a storage unit.

But now, the building will have new life after a 350-foot move Thursday night to a new location at 2825 N. Brookfield Road.

The 1867 Brookfield train depot sits on a flatbed truck in preparation for its 350 feet move to the corner of Brookfield Road and Northhills Drive on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.
The 1867 Brookfield train depot sits on a flatbed truck in preparation for its 350 feet move to the corner of Brookfield Road and Northhills Drive on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

The former train depot will now house the Coffeeville Co. It will also serve as a trailhead for the Waukesha County Fox River bike trail.

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said the historic building likely would have been torn down if the city didn't make arrangements to have it moved.

"I think it's great that we're preserving this historically significant building and giving it a new use when it really hasn't been used for quite a number of years," Ponto said.

Todd Willis, Brookfield's economic development coordinator, hopes the building's new purpose will better serve the community in the coming years.

"It will again be able to serve that purpose in being a hub for people who use the bike path, neighborhood residents and visitors to come and have a cup of coffee, share experiences and still be able to entertain people in a fashion similar to what it did previously," Willis said.

How the building was moved

In the days before the move, workers braced the structure, while disconnecting electrical wires and sewer systems. They prepared the new foundation for the move, before sliding the building onto a truck.

That truck began to slowly move the structure at about 10 p.m. Nearby city streets were shut down as residents caught a final glimpse of the structure at its original location.

About four hours later, the structure was slowly placed onto a new foundation at its new location at North Brookfield Road and North Hills Drive.

Before that could take place, the city reached a relocation agreement with Canadian Pacific Rail. Willis said a state grant and funds from the Greenway Corridor trail system were used for the relocation.

Fiddleheads Coffee Roasters had originally planned to redevelop the building, but Willis confirmed that Coffeeville Co., which has a location in Jackson, will be the new inhabitant for the building. Coffeeville Co. has not yet responded to a reporter's question about when the new location could open.

Willis said plans for the relocation were approved in 2018. Discussions about what to do with the building took place even before then.

"It took a lot of effort on a lot of different people's parts, and I'm just happy it's finally coming to completion," Willis said.

The depot has a storied past

The Milwaukee & Watertown Railroad was chartered in 1851, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. In 1853, the first depot was built in Brookfield, but after that depot was used as a dwelling, the second depot was erected in 1867.

"Of great significance is the fact that this railroad corridor was created by the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad, the first company to actually lay track in Wisconsin," said an article from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Hotels, saloons, general stores and other businesses quickly popped up near the depot and the train tracks in the early part of the 20th century.

The depot was designed in the Italianate architecture style, with a pronounced exaggeration of many Italian Renaissance characteristics.

Outside of its historical significance, it's also a significant building in the Village area of Brookfield.

Although the Village looks much different these days, the depot has become a popular destination for photo takers and sightseers.

"It kind of lets you know you've entered the Village area," Willis said.

Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or evan.casey@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Coffeeville Company set to open inside Brookfield Junction Depot