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Michigan Central Railroad Depot and Ward Block with Willard Library in the background, Battle Creek, Michigan

History: Clara’s on the River

Battle Creek Michigan

Relax and and enjoy yourself while we take you on a trip through time to the 19th century. Ready?

All Aboard!

The Michigan Central Railroad Depot was built in 1888 to support the growing transportation needs of Battle Creek and the U.S. Army training center at Fort Custer. It was heavily used by soldiers departing for overseas duty in World War I and World War II.

The Depot is on the National Register of Historic Places for its age and architectural significance. Masonry of Lake Superior red sandstone, noted for its distinctive patterns, provides one of the most striking aspects of the depot’s exterior. Another prominent feature of the Depot is its clock tower. The tower clocks have been replicated to look exactly as they once did over 100 years ago.

Step inside the Depot and turn back the clock.
A walk through Clara’s on the River is a walk through the history of Battle Creek. The two signed Bradley Hubbard brass lanterns hanging in the foyer were part of the Depot’s original decor. In the foyer you will also find a glass display case, which holds many of the first cereal boxes ever printed in Battle Creek. Atop this display case sits a beautiful period rocking horse generously donated by the Martich family.
As you pass through the original oak doors, the grand Fireplace Room is on your left.

Imagine yourself sitting on one of the benches located near the fireplace trying to stay warm while waiting for the train! That’s what passengers used to do during the harsh Michigan winters. The rocking horse seen above the mantel was originally donated to the pediatric ward of the Leila Post Hospital in 1930. Notice the original white oak ceilings and red oak wainscotting and trim which have been painstakingly restored to their turn-of-the-century elegance.

Returning to the lobby, you will see two chandeliers which are from the original Bill Knapps restaurant in downtown Battle Creek. The double oak doors leading into the Tower Room once adorned the music building at Michigan State University.

The Tower Room , illuminated by a backlit stained glass ceiling, was originally the ticket agent’s office. This room is where you will find railroad memorabilia, the restored ticket counter, and a hand-carved floor lamp brought back from abroad by Mr. and Mrs. Post.

As we leave the Tower Room, you will see an oil portrait of Leila Post. As you wander down the hall you will notice many artifacts from the Kellogg Company. In particular, you will find two pictures titled, “The Sweetheart of Corn.” These are reproductions of the original artwork used in Kellogg advertisments in the early 1900s. You will also come across a picture of the very first factory that W. K. Kellogg built in 1909. Further down the hall you will find the bar and Sparkey’s Lounge.

This cozy lounge area holds many interesting antiques, such as the Carousel horse that came from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The iron door between Sparkey’s Lounge and the Fabric Ceiling Room was donated by the Sisters of the Leila Post Hospital. This door was designed by Marion Lahr, who worked at the hospital in 1939.

Passing through the Fabric Ceiling Room you will come to an elegant little room called Nora’s Room. Nora’s Room is filled with pictures of early downtown Battle Creek. This room was formerly part of the Depot’s Baggage Building.

Thousands of people thronged the tracks at the Michigan Central Depot to hear Republican Presidential Candidate Alf Landon speak in his unsuccessful 1936 bid for office.

Although the Michigan Central Railroad Depot stopped serving passengers in the early 1980’s, today the Depot continues to serve customers making stops from all over the country as Clara’s on the River. Clara’s staff would like to thank Karen’s Keepsakes of Battle Creek for helping us to acquire many of the antiques on display in the restaurant.

Special thanks are due to Penny Degarmo and the Junior Women’ League, Friends of the Depot, and the City of Battle Creek, who saved this unique building from being destroyed. Thanks to their efforts and the efforts of many others, too numerous to name, we were able to take historic landmark and convert it into place where people can enjoy a “Good Old Time.”

Thank you for joining us at Clara’s on the River, and stop in again soon!

Clara’s on the River Celebrated its 25 Year anniversary in June 2017. Read the Battle Creek Enquirer article about the history of Clara’s here:

Click here to see some historical information about Clara’s Lansing Station – that closed in 2016.

We celebrate the spirit of the past here at Clara's on the River. Good friends, great food in
beautiful surroundings reminiscent of a simpler time.

Monday through Saturday: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Clara's on the River, 44 McCamly St. N., Battle Creek, MI 49017 • 269-963-0966
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