Debate over changes to the Bismarck Depot


A future brewery in downtown Bismarck is not brewing up beer – but rather a debate. And it’s a heated one.

The Bismarck Depot, built in 1901, stands out downtown with it’s Spanish architecture.
It has seen a number of changes over the years, even adding a small addition to the structure. 

“That was filled in with windows and doors in the mid-50s and there has been a few changes over time for that as well,” said architectural historian Lorna Meidinger.

Dale Zimmerman, the new owner of the Depot, is converting it to a restaurant and brewery, and wants to make some changes himself. He says the lattice work on the windows are filled with lead paint and need to be replaced. It would cost $125,000 to replace them, and an additional $55,000 per year to clean.

Zimmerman added, “So, you’re looking at, you know in 10 years time, over half a million dollars just in maintenance costs which is obscene. It doesn’t make the project worth it anymore.”

So, he wants to do away with them. But because this is a historical landmark, he needs approval to make the changes.Last week, he was shut down by the Renaissance Zone Authority by the advice of the historical society.

“Those windows are a character-defining feature on the depot and they should be retained,” said Meidinger.

Zimmerman says he’s not buying it. And he’s come across even more hurdles in the project after peeling back the drywall surrounding the inside of the building. 

“And we started seeing structural issues, a lot of cracks with structural issues on the ceiling, on the walls. And those all have to be fixed,” he said. 

So, in Zimmerman’s mind, the window lattice debate is taking a back seat. He’s more concerned about the cracked walls and the safety of his future customers. 

He added, “Lattice has absolutely zero bearing on health or public safety, therefore, it’s not a priority.”

Even though the city ruled against the changes, Zimmerman is moving forward anyway. The new windows – without the lattice – are already ordered and will be installed next week, so the next move is on the city. 

We reached out to the city of Bismarck, and they agree with the historical society. They think the proposed change does not reflect the original architectural character of the building.

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