Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Depots and History in Salem Illinois

Whenever possible from a timing viewpoint, Laurie and I wander toward our travel destinations on the back roads or the 2-lane highways, sightseeing along the way. 

We were on our way to Omaha Nebraska so we’d decided to stay overnight in Springfield Illinois.  As we were in south central Illinois and we had plenty of daylight left, we got off of I-57 at US Hwy. 50, which is the exit for Salem Illinois.

This building is what remains of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad combination freight and passenger depot in Salem.  I wasn’t able to learn when it was built but the architecture appears to be from the late 1800s.  If you’d like to see what this depot looked like before it was ‘modified’, you can go to


·       On June 10, 1971 Amtrak train number 1, the northbound “City of New Orleans” derailed near Salem at 90 miles per hour.  Eleven people died and over 150 were injured in Amtrak's first major accident.

This once busy passenger and freight combination depot served passengers for the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad in Salem.  This brick depot was built ca. 1910. 

The City of Salem, Illinois was incorporated in 1855 and it’s the county seat of Marion County.  As it was situated at the crossroads of the Ohio and Missouri and the Illinois Central railroads, Salem grew as a transportation hub for southern Illinois with trains traveling from Cincinnati Ohio to St. Louis Missouri; from Chicago to New Orleans and; from Vincennes Indiana to points west.  Even today, Salem benefits from the nearby Union Pacific rail yards which employees roughly 200 workers…

The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was organized in 1877 as a consolidation of three others.  It operated on its own and as a segment of other railroads until the 1940s when it was completely absorbed into other lines.  It linked Chicago to southern Illinois, St. Louis and Evansville.

Beginning in the early 1990s the former Chicago and Eastern depot served a new role as a restaurant.  The most recent owners bought the building in 2006 and they totally renovated the interior while maintaining the historical value of the depot.  One of the owners was a member of the well-known Missouri Baking Company family from the Italian “Hill” in St. Louis Missouri.  Unfortunately, the restaurant has been closed for some time now.  I found a posting on-line from 2009 stating that the old depot was up for sale...and apparently there haven’t been any takers in the last 7 years.


·       In the 1820's, a severe drought hit northern and central Illinois.  That led to wagon loads of people traveling to southern Illinois to obtain food and grain for themselves and their livestock.  As this was compared to the biblical story of Israel going to Egypt to purchase grain, southern Illinois became known as "Egypt" and also "Little Egypt."  Salem became the "Gateway of Little Egypt."

The Charles and Naomi Bachmann House was built in 1929 for Charles Bachmann, a local furniture salesman, and his wife Naomi.  The architect designed the house using a plan from a book published by the Architects' Small House Service Bureau.  The Architects' Small House Service Bureau, which was endorsed by the American Institute of Architects, was organized to provide plans for builders of small houses, most of whom could not afford professional architects.  This plan (#6D2) was published in 1923 by the St. Louis Globe Democrat.   

To learn more about this home and why it’s considered significant enough to list on the National Register of Historic Places, you can go to

·       There is a claim that Miracle Whip was invented in Salem Illinois at Max Crosset's Cafe, where it was called "Max Crossett's X-tra Fine Salad Dressing". Crosset sold it to Kraft Foods in 1931 for $300.00.  While admitting that Kraft did buy many salad dressings, Kraft’s historian disputes the claim that X-tra Fine was the original Miracle Whip.

This is the birthplace of William Jennings Bryan, a famous orator and politician.  Bryan was raised in Salem and Marion County, later moving to Lincoln Nebraska where he became active in politics.  He was a dominant force in the populist wing of the Democratic Party.  He was the Party’s candidate for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908.  He also served 2 terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Nebraska and later served as the United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson.  Bryan resigned the latter position because of his pacifist position on World War I.

After 1920 Bryan supported Prohibition and attacked Darwinism and evolution, most famously at the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in 1925 in Dayton Tennessee. Five days after the conclusion of that trial, Bryan died in his sleep in Dayton… To learn more about this interesting historical political figure, go to

Just click on any of the photographs to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a short visit to Salem Illinois!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dave, Sometimes these side-steps along a trip make for the best sightseeing. All this history is so interesting and shows the richness of our country.