About Chez-nous

Requiem for a Shed
Written January 2006

When Uncle Vince calls, it's not to pass the time of day. It is, after all, long distance, and time wasted on the phone is expensive these days.

So, when Vince called in early January, 2006, and I wasn't home, I called him right back when I returned.

We didn't talk too long: he just wanted to tell me that 12" of snow blanketed the farm the previous night, had accomplished quietly what we had long predicted: the roof of the old shed had finally collapsed.

But this was not any old shed.

It started life in 1907 as a brand new and expanded depot in Berlin ND. As such, it experienced much of what became history in Berlin. Off the train came virtually all of the merchandise and mail received in the town and surrounding area; and in an era before the automobile was common, virtually all visitors and travelers to and from the area came through its doors.

According to the booklet, History of Berlin, 1903-1976, "At one time a Northern Pacific passenger train came through Berlin every day, carrying passengers and bringing the mail; they would come back through Berlin about 1:00 from Fargo [through LaMoure], go to Streeter [the town at the end of the line, northwest of Berlin] then come back through Berlin about 3:15 in the afternoon, on back to Fargo."

The same history says this: "In 1957 a new [Berlin] depot was built and the old one sold to Fred Busch and later moved out." I was about to begin my senior year in the summer of 1957, and worked on the farm that summer, so I was around about the time the old depot began the next phase of its life, as a farm building with grain storage capacity, and a shop area for Grandpa Busch and Uncle Vince.

Actually, there were two sections to the Depot on the farm. At its east side was the passenger depot, and above that the depot agents quarters. The depot agents quarters still survive as a storage building at the farm, not far from the house; the passenger section was, I believe, dismantled and the boards used for other purposes.

There is one other story connected with the shed, now about to see its last North Dakota days: Over the last couple of years, Vince and I had removed everything from the building, including, last summer, the work bench on the east wall (the wall nearest the grain bin in the photo.) I became more and more wary of going into the building because it was more and more unstable. We had an eye on the roof as we took out that old workbench.

It was when we moved the work bench last summer that Vince told me it had been the old altar at St. John's Catholic Church in Berlin, the family church from 1915 - 1968. That altar/workbench is now stored somewhere else on the property, part of the 'spirit' of that old Depot!

And time moves on...

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