As a city, Mount Vernon is well connected to New York through the Metro-North system. There are three train stations in the city: Mount Vernon East on the New Haven Line, and Fleetwood and Mount Vernon West on the Harlem Line. The city is at the south end of Westchester County and borders the Bronx. In fact, from the south end of the platform at Mount Vernon West, you can see the Wakefield station, the first Harlem Line station after crossing into the Bronx. Wakefield and Mount Vernon are also historically linked – both of their names come from plantations associated with George Washington: Wakefield where he was born, and Mount Vernon, where he died.
Mount Vernon West’s current station building was built in 1915 and was designed by Warren & Wetmore. The New York Central later sold the station building in 1959, but retained ownership of the passageway to the platforms, and the platforms themselves. Today the passageway contains automated ticket machines, and hung on the ceiling has an Arts for Transit piece. The glass and ceramic mosaic sculptures were done by artist Martha Jackson-Jarvis, and installed in 1991. When I was there I think I was so caught up looking at the ceiling I never even went out to see the front of the station – so whenever I happen to stop by Mount Vernon West I’ll have to do just that.
This week Wakefield has the honor of being the first Harlem Line station south of White Plains I’ve featured. Before starting the Harlem Line Panorama Project, I had never ventured to any of these stations. After this weekend though, I’ve been to most of them. On the current schedule of a station a week, the tour will finally be over at the end of January. And once that is over I think I’ll do a full tour guide for whoever might be interested in seeing the Harlem Line as well… I’m planning to include info about good food, history, art (including Arts For Transit works) and nature along the way, and which stations aren’t to be missed. Anyways, back to the tour…
Traveling south, Wakefield is the first Metro-North station in the Bronx, and is the northernmost neighborhood of the city. It borders Westchester county, specifically the city of Mount Vernon. The two are both linked to the first president of the United States: George Washington. Wakefield was the name of the place where he was born, and Mount Vernon the name of the place he died. The two stations of Wakefield and Mount Vernon West are in fact very close – so close that you can see the station from the platform of the other.
At Wakefield you can make a connection to the subway, Wakefield – 241st Street is located six blocks from the station. The platform is rather small, and can only accommodate four cars. Just south of the station the New Haven Line diverges, and from the station you can see the M2s going by on the other side of the tree line. Historically Wakefield had been a place where passengers changed trains. Electric trains served south into the city, and riders going north transferred to steam trains.
Here’s a confession: I have difficulty in my perception of the passage of time. Always in History class things felt like they were so far distant. And then when I think about it more, I say to myself, “but there are people still living today that went through those events…” so it isn’t possible that they happened as long ago as my mind thinks. When going through all the stuff I put in the Historical Archive, I decided that I wanted to make a timeline. Timelines are really good, but they generally are limited in scope. They usually deal with a particular subject. I could have easily made a “Harlem Line Timeline.” Would it have made total sense to me though? Probably not. I needed something that sort of puts these events in perspective with other things going on at the time. Knowing Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in 1794 is all dandy. But a timeline gives me more an idea of what is going on when it tells me that the man who had the original Grand Central built was alive when George Washington was alive. Washington is like this massive, legendary figure, that for some reason I imagine lived forever and a day ago. So pretty much, I thought it would be cool to do a comparison timeline, the Harlem Line, and US History. Considering that the Harlem Line was started as a part of one of the older railroads in the country, it sort of makes sense.
And if I was absolutely awesome, I would have that timeline for you right now. But because I’m not quite that awesome, I don’t have it completed. If this was in fact History class I would use this excuse… I don’t frequently talk about my roommates on the blog, but if you think I run into crazy people on the train, you should hear some of the stories of what goes on at my house. Last night I had a headache and my roommates were making a lot of noise. You see, they play in a band. This band practices in the basement. I don’t know what the name of the band is, but at one point in time they have referred to themselves as Vaginal Discharge. I kid you not. To my friends, the lead singer is known as “Stripper Girl,” due to the fact that she once worked at Flashdancers. You know, that Gentleman’s Club that frequently advertises on taxis in the city? Yeah. So with all that noise, I had some difficulties in concentrating, and I figured that my lovely readers would understand.
I figured that I’d give a little preview of what I’m working on though. I promise I’ll finish it soon, along with the historical map I’ve also been working on. Please harass me. I am awesome at starting projects, but terrible at finishing them.
Early history. It will be cooler when finished.
Only 24 states when the New York & Harlem Rail Road was chartered. “That’s like, less than half!” says my roommate. And no, I don’t have pictures of her.
My name is Emily, though I am known by many who ride the train simply as Cat Girl, for the hats I customarily wear during the winter time. I am a graphic designer, a former Metro North commuter and lifelong Harlem Line rider. This site is a collection of my usually train-related thoughts, observations, photographs, and travels, as well as my never-ending hunt for intriguing historical artifacts.