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A Couple of Good Weeks for the Keokuk Union Depot

Jun 19, 2020

The Keokuk Union Depot Foundation this week was awarded another challenge grant from the Jeffris Family Foundation. And the Keokuk Union Depot Commission just received a donation of books to be used for fundraising. 

The depot was built in 1891 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city acquired the building in 2011, and the Keokuk Union Depot Commission now operates it as a community center . The depot can be rented for weddings, graduation parties, and other events. 

The Challenge Grant

The Jeffris Family Foundation announced it will give $275,000 to the depot foundation if the organization can raise $550,000 locally by June 30, 2023.

“We have lots of renovations planned, including a new marble floor in the depot,” said Sandy Seabold, who serves on the foundation’s board.

The money will also be spent on:

  • Repointing and cleaning the brick walls to restore the original color
  • Improving the restrooms
  • Shoring up the building’s foundation
  • Installing period chandeliers
  • Restoring the trackside train canopy to its original color and period lighting

The Jeffris Family Foundation is based in Janesville, Wisconsin. The organization said it assists the development of historic sites for non-profit organizations in small towns and cities in the eight Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.

This is not the first time the Jeffris Family Foundation has challenged the Keokuk community to raise money for the depot. It pledged $333,000 in June 2014 if the depot foundation could raise $667,000 locally, a figure it reached in 2016.

A rendering of the restored waiting room and train canopy.
Credit Courtesy of Keokuk Union Depot Foundation

The Book Donation

The book, Burlington Bulletin No. 60, covers the history of the old K-Line in Keokuk. The Burlington Route Historical Society donated 100 copies to the depot commission.

“The only stipulation was that we have to sell them for $30 each. And they’re selling like hotcakes,” said Seabold, who serves as the commission’s treasurer.

“It’s a beautiful book. People have bought one copy and they come back to buy more. It tells not only the railroad history but there’s a lot of river history and the history of industries over the years that have used the railroad here in Keokuk.”

She also said the book contains numerous rare photographs.

Duncan Cameron wrote the books. Seabold said he is a member of the Burlington Route Historical Society.

Seabold said the donation surprised her. “It’s a wonderful windfall for us right now.” She said the money raised will be spent on maintenance of the depot.

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