Bergland makes print of painting available to ‘Save the Depot’ donors
By James Grob, [email protected]
Local artist Janiece Bergland’s painting might just be the thing that put the “Save the Depot” drive over the top.
Prints of Bergland’s painting of Charles City’s historic Milwaukee Road railroad depot are now available to anyone who donates $1,000 or more to the fundraising campaign.
“I just think it should be saved,” Bergland said. “It needs work, but it’s pretty cool.”
Bergland, a longtime local artist and choir director who was inducted into Charles City Fine Arts Hall of Fame five years ago, said she donated the rights to give prints of the painting as a premium for larger donations, while retaining the copyright.
Donors will receive a matted print of the painting, autographed by Bergland.
Bergland taught vocal music in the Charles City School District for 28 years and currently serves on the school board. For many years, Bergland and her husband, Bruce, chaired Charles City’s annual Art-a-Fest celebration.
She said the original painting was created a couple months ago as a commission for a friend “who really likes the depot,” and while she was painting it she saw some information about the Save the Depot fundraising effort and decided that she could use the painting to contribute.
The depot was built in 1912 to serve passenger trains traveling between Rapid City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, through Charles City to Chicago.
It was in danger of being demolished by owner Canadian Pacific Railroad, which has wanted the building removed from its property for years, citing liability concerns.
People working with the local American Passenger Train History Museum have come up with a plan to move the depot to a new location nearby where it can be renovated and utilized again, but the cost of the move has been estimated at $350,000.
The Depot would sit at the corner of North Grand Avenue and 11th Avenue, next to the restored Charles City Western Railroad depot that is now the headquarters of Stacy Ackerson’s Shankland Insurance.
The building would be used as the entrance to the passenger train museum, and would also offer public meeting space, according to plans envisioned by the Save the Depot Initiative.
Last month, the railroad lifted its March 31 deadline to raise enough funds to relocate the depot, but said the depot still must be moved as soon as possible.
To help in that effort, the railroad company pledged $33,750 to the Save the Depot Initiative, representing the estimated cost the railroad would have spent to demolish the building and clean up the site.
“CP no longer needs the Charles City depot to support its operations,” said Andy Cummings, with Canadian Pacific media relations. “We are pleased to transfer it to a group that will move it to an off-site location and preserve it for the community’s benefit. We are pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that meets the community’s needs as well as CP’s.”
The fundraising campaign is very close to reaching its goal, helped in large part by challenge gifts from David McCartney and Judy (Sebern) Beachy, both of whom are children of World War II veterans and former residents of Charles City.
A $100,000 challenge grant from Jim Smith, who grew up in Charles City at a time when passenger trains regularly served the town, also gave the drive a big boost. Smith is a World War II veteran and former attorney and civic leader.
Bergland said she recently presented an autographed print to Smith, who resides at Riverside Assisted Living in Charles City.
“Bruce and I visited him … at Riverside and I gave him a copy of this print,” Bergland said. “He told us of his memories of shipping out in WWII from there and his father’s job as traffic controller of the railroads for Oliver.”
Bergland said Smith has been a close family friend “since his wife, Virginia hired me to direct the choir at Trinity all those years ago.”
Smith boarded the train at the Depot in the 1940s on his way to Maryland where the troops were gathered.
“A train then transported us non-stop to Portland, Oregon, where I began my World War II service in the Pacific,” Smith said. “My dad, future in-laws and several other relatives came to see me off. I think my mother was too upset to join them.”
Smith also departed from the depot to attend college in Oberlin, Ohio, both before and after the war.
He has said he is enthusiastic about preserving this architecturally significant building, which he said is one of the few important Charles City structures to have survived the 1968 tornado.
Contributions can be sent to Save the Depot Fund, PO Box 683, Charles City IA 50616.