Great Northern Depot

The Great Northern Depot in Princeton, Minnesota was a former depot on the Great Northern Railway (U.S.). The building is a combination of Queen Anne and Jacobean architectural styles, built of local brick with sandstone trim. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. When the depot was built in 1902, at a cost of $15,594, it replaced a wooden frame structure. The dedication ceremony was well-attended by at least 500 people. The size of the depot, at a length of 215 feet, a height of 35 feet, and a width exceeding 37 feet, made it the largest building in Princeton. The main products shipped from the depot were agricultural and forest commodities, along with a substantial amount of brick shipped from a brickyard two miles north of Princeton.

The Great Northern Railway originally did not travel through Princeton. Instead, it ran from Minneapolis, Minnesota through Elk River and to St. Cloud. Another line ran from St. Cloud through Milaca to Duluth. James J. Hill challenged local business owners to raise $50,000 to route the line through Princeton. The money was raised, and a line was built through Princeton. Surveying for the route began in late March 1886, and the track-laying crew started building the new line from Elk River on October 24, 1886. With few obstacles to construction, the line was finished quickly, and rail service began on November 29, 1886. The Princeton route actually shortened the distance between Minneapolis and Duluth. Initially, service was frequent, but in November 1899, the route to Duluth was relocated to a line passing further east, connecting through Coon Rapids, Cambridge and Brook Park. Service on the line declined as a result, with luxury passenger cars being replaced with ordinary coaches in 1908, the U.S. Mail route being lost in 1930, and passenger service terminated altogether in 1952. Freight service continued until 1976, at which time the line was abandoned.

Mille Lacs County Historical Society Depot Museum

The depot is now the home of the Mille Lacs County Historical Society Depot Museum, with railroad cars and track placed next to the building. The 1856 "District No 1" schoolhouse is located next to the depot. The school was the first in Mlle Lacs County. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota listed the depot on its 2010 list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Vehicles on site include a 1924 Wilcox water truck, a 1963 Milwaukee Road insulated boxcar, a 1963 Burlington Northern Flat car, a 1925 Wooden Milwaukee Road boxcar, and a 1963 Burlington Northern wide-vision steel caboose.