The very first depot in Oregon was a two-story building constructed in 1872. It was a frame structure with ticket office, passenger waiting room, and freight room on the first floor and crew sleeping quarters on the second floor. A fire was discovered at 5 am on Saturday, November 10, 1893, and an alarm was sounded and the fire bell was rung. The fire department showed up with their hose cart, but because the nearest fireplug was one-half mile from the depot, the structure burned to the ground. The building, insured for $3,000, was a total loss.
The railroad promptly replaced the original depot with a frugal single story frame structure in 1894, but that too was struck by fire in 1909; this time however, the Oregon Fire Department was able to save most of the building. Since only the ticket office had suffered serious damage, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad had serious doubts as to whether the salvaged building even warranted replacement, and was considering the elimination of Oregon as a passenger stop altogether.
At the time however, one of the more influential residents of the area was Congressman Frank Lowden who had established his Sinnissippi farm just southeast of Oregon; but perhaps of equal significance was the fact that the congressman's wife Florence happened to be the daughter of George Pullman, manufacturer of the Pullman Palace cars, widely used for passenger service among all of the nation's railroads. Lowden's input weighed heavily in the railroad's ultimate decision to build a brand new single story depot in 1913.
Reprinted from the Ogle County Reporter of January 15, 1914
Citizens Are Proud of New Depot
FINE NEW PASSENGER STATION AT OREGON
Built at a Cost Close to $20,000 and People Are Justly Proud of it.---- Burlington Ry. Co. Has Done Well By Us in the Year Past.
Through the courtesy of Mr. W. T. Krausch, engineer of building for the Burlington railroad, we have been favored with a photograph and description of the new passenger depot recently built in this city by the C. B. & Q Ry. Co., and an improvement to Oregon which every citizen is proud of.
The building is a modern structure in every respect, and cost in the neighborhood of $18,000, exclusive of the track changes and the other extensive improvements made at this point. The station is over 100 feet long and the extreme width 34 feet and the exterior is constructed of pressed brick with stone trimmings and paneled with stucco finish. The roof is of tile construction throughout and the design provides large overhanging roof surface.
The interior accommodations are up to date in every respect and consist of a general waiting room, approximately 50x22 feet in dimensions, with ladies' rest room and men's smoking room, each of commodious size and equipped with modern toilet conveniences. The entire interior except the baggage and ticket offices is finished with enamel brick wainscot to a height of five feet and above this point the walls are plastered, the ceiling is also plastered and paneled with beam effect. The floors throughout for these rooms consist of tile with tile base. The cellar is directly under the baggage room and in there is located a modern steam heating plant. The foundations of the building throughout are of concrete.
One attractive feature of this improvement is the large overhanging roof surfaces, which will add largely to the comfort of patrons during stormy weather.
The building is equipped with a complete system of electric lighting, which is also carried into effect throughout the platform and walks. The platforms, sidewalks and driveways have been made large, spacious and commodious in order to provide proper facilities not only from a point of comfort but also from a point of safety.
General contractors who did the work, were T. S. Leake & Co., Chicago, and contractors for the plumbing and heating were Sauer & Harris, Oregon, Ill.
Wide brick walks, longer than the longest passenger train that pulls in here, has been laid, and is well lighted with electricity. A portion of the old depot has been remodeled and set to the west of the new station and is used as a freight depot. A hundred foot long elevated freight platform has been built to facilitate the loading and unloading of freight.
Taking everything into consideration the improvements made at this point by the Burlington railroad have exceeded the fondest expectations of our people and they are justly proud of their new station and improvement made at Oregon.
The salvaged structure was moved to the west for use as a freight house, and the new structure which still stands today was built on the site of the original depot. The new depot was built of brick, and featured terrazzo floors with walls covered half-way to the ceiling with white ceramic glazed tile. Three back-to-back oak benches adorned the waiting room, while two others occupied the restrooms.
Passengers boarded trains from the depot until 1971, when Amtrak discontinued service to Oregon. After modifying the depot's interior, the Burlington Northern continued to use the structure for office space until 1986, when the property was sold to the city...for the grand sum of one dollar. After a decade of use and abuse as a repository for unclaimed stolen bicycles and a variety of other castoff items, the depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. But as the structure continued to show signs of human neglect and weather beating, it became apparent that action was needed if this piece of history was to be preserved. And people responded.
In the summer of 2001, with financial assistance from the City of Oregon and several private donors, a hearty group of volunteers led by Bob Rees of Oregon and Jerry Stauffer, a Mount Morris native, began the Oregon Depot Restoration Project.