Header Image

About the Depot - Ghost Stories

The Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot captures the essence of the travel experience by taking a step back in time and seeing this beautiful structure as it once was through the stories of the many travelers who traversed these halls before you. These special guests reside as works of art in The Depot's corridors, and each ghostly white statue represents a significant time in The Depot's history.

We asked for your stories and you responded! The winners have been announced and were rewarded with a luxurious one-night stay in one of The Depot's Historic Suites and dinner for two at Charley's Grill. A commemorative plaque, naming and telling the story of each sculpture, will now hang permanently near its statue. Each of these traveler's stories are here for all to read, or stop by the Depot to see and experience for yourself.

Charley
The Conductor
Traveling Men
The Kissing Couple
The Paperboy
The Policeman
The Sailor
Shoe Shine
Woman Traveler

Charley

The history of The Depot is full of tales of travelers who crossed the country; however, one of the most poignant stories is not about someone who occasionally passed through town.

During the heyday of The Depot, Charley Strong was the Milwaukee Road's most famous dining car waiter. No one really knew who he was before he became this railroad line's most popular waiter, but after travelers met him, no one ever forgot Charley. From his warm smile to his impeccable service, Charley took pride in his job and loved the railroad.

Charley is a testament to the charm of this time period and The Depot. Even after he retired, he missed the trains and the travelers so much that he often walked along Washington Avenue to watch the locomotives and talk to the people.

Nowadays, standing tall at the entrance of the restaurant named for him, Charley's statue greets guests with a crisp, white linen over his arm just as he did from 1882-1910.

Story submitted by: Sara Maday, Minneapolis, MN

Back to Top

The Conductor

My name is Edwin Kelly, Milwaukee Road Conductor. My life has intertwined with countless numbers of people in the corridors of this depot – but not just the travelers.

Every day I see the regulars, too. Jimmy Graves, the paperboy. "Snappy" over there, the shine boy. We call him that because that's how he always says your shoes look when he is done. Officer O'Brien has been here almost as long as I have. You might even say they are my family.

Since my wife passed and we never had children, they are the only family I have. There are times when just knowing and being with these people makes me so happy that I wish time would just stop, and we could be frozen here eternally – happy and together. Life moves on, however, and others will come after us. My hope would be that they take care of this place and love it as we do.

Story submitted by: Roy Srp, Waseca, MN

Back to Top

Traveling Men

This is the story of two men, Arnie Johnson, and his son, Arvid. The place is the Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis, and the date is May 29, 1935. Arnie is saying goodbye to Arvid who will be traveling to Chicago on the maiden trip of the brand new Hiawatha speedliner.

Arvid's anticipating his ride on the train advertised as "nothing faster on rails". Just imagine – the shrouded Atlantic-type locomotive cruising at speeds greater than 100 miles per hour across the plains! It would quickly become the most popular train between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Departing Minneapolis at 12:30 p.m., the Hiawatha would arrive in Chicago, 421 miles away, in only 7 hours with stops at St. Paul, Red Wing, Winona, La Crosse, New Lisbon, Portage and Milwaukee.

As a parting gesture before his voyage, Arnie gives Arvid money to enjoy a steak dinner in the dining car.

Story Submitted by: Bob Lark, Edina, MN

Back to Top

The Kissing Couple

Love at the end of the line.

In 1920, tough times forced my immigrant grandfather to take the train from Nebraska to Minnesota. He left his sweetheart behind to milk the cows and run the farm. A prairie fire destroyed that life, and she, too, rode the train to Minneapolis. Luckily, she found work as a cook on Seven Corners, and they were married on one of her lunch hours.

In 1940, my father returned from the Navy to marry my mother – his high school sweetheart. He carried a ring in his pocket, and they met at the Depot, just as my grandparents had done 20 years before.

In 1963, I waited on the same brick walkway for a train to meet my future husband in Fargo.

For three generations in my family, love endured to the end of the line.

Story submitted by: Carolyn Kenner, Devils Lake, ND

Back to Top

The Paperboy

During the depression era, when I was a kid, we chewed on tar because we didn't have gum, and we had fun greasing the tracks of the streetcar on Halloween, then watching as it tried to climb the hills.

I also made money as a paperboy. I felt fortunate to have a way to make some spending money and to help my family. I delivered the papers every day – no matter what. I even have a commemorative certificate honoring my service for delivering papers during the Armistice Day storm. That storm was so intense that people died in their cars on what is now known as Interstate 394 just west of Minneapolis.

This was a time in history to work hard, to appreciate what we had, and to build for the future. I feel fortunate for the experiences and opportunities I had.

Story submitted by: Laura Gillund, Edina, MN

Back to Top

The Policeman

Officer Binsfeld's tales wove around people who passed through Minneapolis on the rails while the travelers' stories were often overflowing with adventures from seemingly far away places. It was a rare day that any enforcement was needed by Officer Binsfeld. But his presence was felt by all, and his good-natured heart put many a traveler at ease.







Story submitted by: Beth Jasiak, Little Chute, WI

Back to Top

The Sailor

Norman Soley was a strong, young Norwegian lad. Having been orphaned at a young age, he grew up and spent much of his time at the Earle Brown Farm in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shoeing the Clydesdales. Each year he proudly watched the Clydesdales march down Hennepin Avenue during the annual Aquatennial Parade as he longed for adventures unknown.

In 1914, his day had come. As a newly enlisted sailor, Norman knew the locomotive he waited for would take him further than those behemoth studs ever could. While he stood on the platform, he contemplated the day when he would return to his sweet Lenore and raise his family on the banks of Lake Minnetonka.

After a blessed life, Norman died in December of 1995 at the age of 98.

Story submitted by: Kathy Jalivay, Eagan, MN

Back to Top

Shoe Shine

Timothy smiles as he slides his cloth over the fine shoe. The soft sound of his work mingles with those of the station. Although he has never spoken to the shoe's owner, the man is a regular who Timothy has silently dubbed "Mr. Star" after the folded newspaper the man always reads after asking kindly for "Just a buff".

Timothy has never seen "Mr. Star" exit or board a train, yet he appears every Friday at 10:05 a.m. for Timothy's services. Sometimes Timothy imagines the gentleman is an important businessman traveling to Minneapolis from Chicago to confirm his enterprise is running smoothly; or perhaps he is a local lawyer or doctor, enjoying the trains and the bustle of the station as he reads his morning paper.

Nonetheless, Timothy is here, every time, to give him "just a buff" and receive a nickel in return – for he's a pretty good businessman himself.

Story submitted by: Wendy Kropid, Superior WI

Back to Top

Woman Traveler

As a young, vibrant woman, Vivian traveled the country by train while working for women's suffrage. She led marches, parades, and other demonstrations while fighting for women's right to vote. Vivian arrived at Minneapolis by the Milwaukee rail, and during her stay she met and fell in love with a mill worker, Harvey Olsen. Her exuberant passion for change excited him, and he convinced her to stay. Since then, Vivian planted herself in the Twin Cities and devoted her time and talents to the Women's Club of Minneapolis, a group dedicated to charity, benevolence, and humanity.

Vivian and Harvey instilled in their children the importance of philanthropy and inspired others to contribute in various ways to help better society. Today, Vivian's three daughters are closely involved with the Women's Club as they continue to support their community.

Story submitted by: Catherine Valdez, Pasco, WA

Back to Top

Additional Links