The Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad reached the town of Clare in 1870, and the first railroad depot was built on the southwest corner of McEwan Street. At the time, the area was heavily timbered and only a few dwellings lined the streets of what was then a small community reached primarily by stage coach or river.
With the coming of the railroad, both the town and the county's population swelled as men came north in search of jobs and their fortune. "Green gold," the massive white pines that covered much of the county was the draw. Other railroads lines ran northward from Clare, opening up the county to logging and growth.
In 1887, the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Michigan Railway also reached Clare helping cement the town as the hub for reaching Midwest markets. A joint depot named The Clare Union Depot was constructed at the junction of the two lines. In 1894, that depot was destroyed by fire and a new depot--the current one-- with its two arms, each serving one of the railroads, opened a year later.
By the time this terminal was built, rail traffic in Clare was already beginning a slow decline since many of the trees that had been the source of the county's growth and wealth had been cut. The introduction of the automobile further reduced railroad traffic. Eventually passenger traffic was halted and only freight came and left by rail. Eventually, even that traffic was too insignificant to justify an active depot and the Clare Union Depot, like many of its brethren up and down the line, closed.
The City of Clare purchased the depot from the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railway Company (now the Great Lakes Central Railroad and a descendant of the Toledo, Ann Arbor and North Michigan Railway) in 2005, with the intent to preserve and restore this historic building. However, one condition of the sale was that the depot must be moved from its original site due to access, liability, and safety issues since the tracks are still used to carry freight.
In 2010, the depot project began to move forward thanks to new partnership between the City of Clare, Mid Michigan Community Action, Clare County Arts Council, Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, Clare Downtown Development Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, Great Lakes Central Railroad, and Clare Depot Preservation, Inc. The Clare Depot Committee was formed to guide the venture.
The Mid Michigan Community Action Agency donated two property parcels for the new site and the Clare City Commission formally approved partnerships and the purchase of property for a portion of the new site. The depot was moved in April 2014 and rehabilitation work commenced immediately. In October 2018 the depot was once again open to the public.