I’m a bit late on this but maybe this will be news to you. Some time last year, a notable infrastructure blog called The Infrastructurist, published a list of the top 10 greatest rail stations ever built. Standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest examples of 20th Century American architecture is Rochester’s NY Central Station. What? You’ve never heard of it? That’s probably because it’s not with us anymore — may she rest in peace. The NY Central Station was demolished in 1965. In it’s place, the pretty little Amtrak Station you know and love today. In fact, all of the buildings on the Infrastructurist’s list are no longer.
The article is verbosely titled Demolished! 11 Beautiful Train Stations That Fell To The Wrecking Ball (And The Crappy Stuff Built In Their Place) and it ranks the old Rochester station at #7, just after such famous structures as New York City’s old Penn Station and Chicago’s Grand Central. A few of the stations on the list exist today in much more modest forms but most are now either parking lots or vacant lots. Penn Station, for example, is now mainly a network of underground railroad and subway stations beneath a glass office tower and Madison Square Garden arena. If you walked past the 7th Avenue site today you’d see no remnants of the architectural treasure once described by Senator Daniel Moynihan as “the best thing in our city.”
UPDATE: Infrastructurist.com no longer exists, but you can view an archived version of the old article here .
Likewise, if you’ve ever been to the dingy Amtrak station (shown below) on Central Avenue in downtown Rochester today, you’d probably piss yourself with amazement to learn that this once was a majestic, 4 story, stone building with several high arching windows and a main room that was reminiscent of New York’s Grand Central Station. I apologize for the profanity, but seriously, look at it!
The article by Yonah Freemark and Jebediah Reed explains, “Rochester’s principal train station opened in 1914, with New York Central Railroad connections to New York, Albany, and Buffalo. The elaborate curved brick exterior made a prominent mark on downtown. But the decline in passenger traffic emptied the station by the late 1950s, and the building was razed in 1965. In its place? A parking lot.”
Here’s a little more history on this grand station. In 1854, New York Central Station was constructed on Mill Street at the edge of High Falls where it served as the community’s transportation center for 30 years. In the 1880’s the railroad tracks were elevated and the station was relocated to the east side of the Genesee River (on Central Avenue at St. Paul Street) among the thriving breweries and clothing factories. This second station served New York Central’s needs for just over 20 years, when they decided to build a new station on the north side of Central Avenue, between North Clinton Avenue and Joseph Avenue. A well known New York City architect, Claude Bragdon designed the third station, referred to as Union Station or the Bragdon Station, and it opened in 1914.
But sadly this grandest of stations, busy for four decades, lost most of its passengers to the new interstate system as well as the airlines. The New York Central sold the building in 1959, and the Bragdon Station was demolished in 1965.
I’m not going to run down the rest of the list of demolished stations here. You’ll have to read the article yourself. But I will tell you that Rochester is not alone and is in good company. Cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Memphis, and Atlanta are all noted for the same horrific blunder. I for one hope we’ve learned a lesson. Even if it is a day late.
Tags: Amtrak Station, architecture, blog, Bragdon Station, Central Avenue, Claude Bragdon, downtown Rochester, Grand Central Station, High Falls, history of Rochester, Joseph Avenue, Madison Square Garden, Mill Street, New York, New York Central Railroad, New York City, North Clinton Avenue, NY Central Station, old photos, Penn Station, railroad, Rochester, Rochester history, Rochester NY, Saint Paul Street, Senator Daniel Moynihan, The Infrastructurist, Union Station
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2010 at 10:54 pm and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Train/Railroad Stuff, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.