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Keokuk Union Depot Foundation meets fundraising challenge

Repairs and renovations are being done at the Keokuk Union Depot.
Will Buss
Repairs and renovations are being done at the Keokuk Union Depot.

It’s full speed ahead for several renovation projects at the Keokuk Union Depot, thanks to a grant challenge and generous local donors.

The background

In June 2020, the Jeffris Family Foundation challenged the Keokuk Union Depot Foundation to raise $550,000 by the end of June 2023. The Jeffris Foundation pledged to give the Keokuk group another $275,000 if it met that goal.

The Wisconsin-based Jeffris Family Foundation helps small towns in the Midwest with the preservation and restoration of historic structures.

“We are so grateful to the Jeffris Family Foundation because this restoration of the depot would never have been possible without them,” said Keokuk Union Depot Foundation President Janet Smith.

Smith said they met the fundraising challenge thanks to several financial contributions within the past four months.

“There is a whole world of people from the Keokuk area who loved this depot. They live all over the United States, and they really have come together to help us restore this depot,” she said.

How the money will be used

With $825,000 now in hand, the Keokuk organization has several projects lined up:

  • Shoring up the building’s foundation. “This grant will enable us to replace that sandstone foundation with a coordinated color granite foundation,” said Smith.
  • Repointing and cleaning the brick walls to restore the original color.
  • Improving and updating the restrooms.
  • Reproducing the waiting room’s original marble and tile floor.
  • Installing period lighting.

The money will also help pay for restoration of the depot’s unique turtleback trackside canopy, which was completed last year.
“It is the last one standing of that design in the United States,” Smith said.

Restoration of the exterior masonry could be completed this fall, and the interior renovations could be finished by early next year.

More about the depot

The depot’s architectural design is Romanesque Revival. It’s located near the west bank of the Mississippi River.

It was built from 1890 to 1891.

Passenger service ended in 1967.

Smith said the cathedral ceilings were refurbished during the 1980s.

The Keokuk Union Depot Foundation was formed in 2012 to oversees the depot’s renovation. The depot was listed on National Register of Historic Places the following year.

Reconstruction of the depot’s roof was completed in 2018. The Jeffris Family Foundation also provided challenge grant funding for that project.

More about the funding

The waiting room renovation is also supported by a $50,000 grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historical Resource Development Program, and additional grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Grace Bott Millar Charitable Foundation, Howard Jackson Family Trust Foundation, Lee County Charitable Fund, and Keokuk Area Community Foundation.

Smith said the Foundation board is thankful for all the contributors who are making the depot’s renovation possible.

“We are making sure that the depot will last for another 130 plus years and more and be of great use to the community,” she said.

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