When the Chicago and North Western Railway reached Green Bay in 1862, linking the area to Milwaukee, Racine, and Chicago, it touched off a lumber boom. Lumbermen no longer had to wait for spring thaws to float logs downriver, nor did they have to risk lumber and lives in thundering Fox River logjams or in savage storms sweeping Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Wisconsin became the nation’s fourth leading lumber state in the late nineteenth century, and by 1870 Green Bay ranked as the world’s top producer of wooden shingles. Excessive lumbering exhausted the Northwoods white pines by the turn of the century, but the railroad never gave up on Green Bay. It built this depot in 1898, a decision that proved prescient when Green Bay reemerged soon after as a leading manufacturer of pulpwood products, especially tissue paper.
The architect, Charles Sumner Frost of Chicago, had written in Architectural Review (September 1897) that a train station should, above all, express a sense of shelter. Here, he ran a long canopy over the trackside platform, extending in both directions far beyond the length of the depot, so that the building literally took travelers under its wing. The Renaissance Revival station has a square entrance portico set in a two-story gabled pavilion to welcome passengers. A five-story tower above the entrance has its clock faces set in blind arches above an arcaded belfry. The detailed brickwork includes a checkerboard pattern filling the blind arches and soldier courses, outlined by stretchers, banding the spandrels. The tower’s bracketed hipped roof echoes the roof of the depot below. An unornamented two-story freight station is linked to the passenger depot by a gabled wing.