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After years of literally patchwork solutions, the historic Ellensburg train depot may be in line to have a new, permanent roof installed this fall.

The roof would be another milestone along the lengthy route toward restoration and eventual reuse of the historic structure.

The group organizing and carrying out the restoration of the depot, Friends of the Northern Pacific Depot, recently received notification of a grant award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to cover the engineering schematic for a seismic retrofit of the roof.

The grant is for $5,000 with a $7,000 match for the seismic retrofit/engineering of the roof, said Erin Condit, member of the Friends of the Northern Pacific Depot.

The installation of a new roof, though, is a costly effort. Steve Hayden, president of the Friends of the Northern Pacific Depot, said it will cost about $450,000.

This will be the second grant in two years the depot group has received from the trust. The first paid for the development of a historic structures report by Artifacts Consulting of Tacoma.

“At this point, it is possible we could get a roof on before fall. It’s going to be tight,” Condit said.

The friends of the depot group has raised more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind donations over the past several years. Hayden has been the primary contributor and driver behind the friends fundraising effort. The friends group recently received $18,000 from Kittitas County in lodging tax funding.

Both Hayden and Condit said the project has benefited from widespread support in the Ellensburg business community.

In addition, Hayden said the project also receives support from railroad and historic preservation enthusiasts around the nation and the world.

Long-running problem

The building was last used for train service in 1981. The depot roof has been an issue for many years, under multiple ownerships. One of the first focuses of the restoration was to stop the leaks in the roof to preserve the structure. The roof has been patched, but not replaced.

Restoring the roof does not mean replacing it with the same materials used for the original depot structure, Condit said.

Condit said in the case of the roof, the friends group has had to substantiate to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation that the original thin tile roofing material was inadequate even at the time it was installed.

“The original historic material was one-eighth of an inch thick,” Condit said. “You don’t have to use the original materials if the materials were not up to community standards in 1910.”

Condit said the group provided documents to support the inadequacy of the original roofing. Other train depots from that era have been able to replace roofs with better materials. This past week, the friends group received notice that the historical preservation department approved the use of better roofing materials.

Hayden said the artificial slate is high quality and will be able to endure the Ellensburg wind. It is the same material that was used at the restored Cheyenne, Wyo., train depot.

In the long run

Condit said one of the next goals is to have the depot included in the city of Ellensburg’s comprehensive plan. She said that would make the project eligible for a wider range of grant programs.

The ultimate result for the depot will be a straight preservation in accordance with the original architectural design, Condit said.

“It will make the building one of the most important historical buildings in Central Washington,” Condit said.

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