H.H. Richardson’s Last Station – New London Union Station

When it comes to great American architects, one must certainly mention the name Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson’s name may not be as widely mentioned as some others – likely because he unfortunately passed in his prime at the age of 47 – but his influence in American architecture is obvious. The architectural style he popularized bears his name – Richardsonian Romanesque – and is certainly one of my favorite architectural styles. The style features attractive arches and rusticated stonework – and is familiar to fans of the Boston and Albany Railroad, the style in which many of that railroad’s main line stations were designed.

Most of the Richardsonian Romanesque stations we’ve featured on the site – Chatham, Dobbs Ferry, Hartford, Irvington, and Tarrytown – were designed by the firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, Richardson’s three assistants who continued the business after his death. The station we’re visiting today, however, was Richardson’s final station design. New London’s Union Station was conceived in 1885 – one year before Richardson’s death. Construction was not completed until one year after his death in 1887.

1885 Sketch of New London
1885 elevation sketch showing the detailing for New London’s Union Station. Image courtesy Shepley Bulfinch.

Although New London Union Station strays a bit from the typical Richardsonian Romanesque style as it is constructed primarily of brick, the characteristic arches, detailing, and occasional swaths of rusticated stone can be found. Bricks radiate outwards from the arches, creating a sunburst effect, and alternating exposed bricks create detailed borders around the top. Completing the detailing of the station is a wide band above the entrance, labeling the building “Union Railroad Station.” The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was the station’s primary occupant (having leased the Shore Line Railway in 1870), though the station was built in conjunction with the Central Vermont Railroad (which had leased the New London Northern Railroad) making it a Union Station.

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Another Great New York Station: Utica

Though begrudging partners, the architectural firms of Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore collaborated magnificently on the great Grand Central Terminal. Unfortunately, in mid-project Charles Reed died. Seeing this as an opportunity, Warren & Wetmore secretly approached the railroad’s directors the day after Reed’s funeral and convinced them to void the original contract – after all, there was no more Reed & Stem. The new contract named Warren & Wetmore the sole architects for Grand Central and the further projects associated with the Terminal (like the Biltmore Hotel). Ultimately, Stem sued Warren & Wetmore and was awarded a hefty sum in 1920, and Whitney Warren was expelled from the American Institute for Architects for unprofessional conduct ((An article discussing Reed & Stem and the Biltmore Hotel they were supposed to collaborate on, before the contract was changed, with Warren & Wetmore can be found here.)).

Despite all this, there seemed to be no bad blood between Stem and the New York Central Railroad. Forming a new firm with junior partner Alfred Fellheimer, Stem & Fellheimer designed the railroad station in Utica for the New York Central.

Workers at Utica
Workers stand atop the the clock on the station’s façade. ((Photo from the Oneida County Historical Society))

The construction of the new station at Utica was no easy task. The previous station, besides being inadequate for the traffic it was receiving, was plagued with problems in the spring when floods would cover the tracks with water. To combat this problem, and make additional room for platforms and a rail yard, the Mohawk River was moved about half a mile north. Construction on the station itself began in 1912, and it was opened in May of 1914.

Postcards from Utica
Postcards showing the front of Utica station.

Utica station features a 47 foot high waiting room, with 34 decorative marble pillars, and some of the marble was said to have come from the old Grand Central Station ((According to popular lore, 8 of the columns were brought from Grand Central Station. Though often stated, according to the Oneida County Historical Society there is no evidence to prove that this actually happened.)). Originally intended to be a station for the New York Central, the station eventually became a Union Station in 1915 when the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western and the New York, Ontario and Western moved their operations to the building.

While the interior of the station is quite lavish, the exterior is a little bit more conservative. There are no great statues of Mercury, Minerva and Hercules atop the station, like Grand Central Terminal, but the caduceus “herald’s staff” often carried by Mercury is visible on the station’s façade. Several carved eagles, as well as a clock also grace the front of the station.

Tickets and postcards from Utica
Tickets and another postcard from Utica

Like most old stations, Utica’s eventually fell into disrepair and considered for demolition. Thankfully, the station avoided the wrecking ball and restoration was begun in 1978. Now owned by Oneida county, the station is served by Amtrak, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, as well as by Greyhound and other local bus companies. Some of the old waiting room is apportioned off and used by the Oneida County Department of Motor Vehicles. Since 2003, the building’s official name has been The Boehlert Center at Union Station, named for Sherwood Boehlert, a Utica native who served twelve terms in the US House of Representatives.

Let’s enjoy a quick little tour of Utica station, part of my ongoing endeavor to write about some of the other buildings and stations linked to the four architects of Grand Central Terminal…

  
  
 
  
 
   
 
  
   
   
   

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Radio Repairman Returns! And a bunch of random memories…

The other day I caught sight of the amusing radio repairman that I dubbed Bob in a previous entry… he was carrying a plate of food, and thankfully didn’t get into any awkward conversations with anyone. He did get up and go to the little conductor vestibule, and got on his hands and knees and looked under the door, and through the window in order to see if anyone was in there. Alas, nobody was. He returned to his seat, shouted out “Mount Kisco!” for no apparent reason a few times, and then got off the train.

Here are a bunch of other random memories that have come to mind recently… some are new and some are old!

While eating lunch at a place across the street from the Valhalla train station, I heard a trio of blondes get into a very heated discussion about dog food.
“You can’t buy your dog Kibbles and Bits, it is BAD!”
“What do you mean, BAD?”
“It is just bad, Iams is better. You get it from the pet store.”
“But why is Iams better?”
“Well, the lady said that giving your dog Kibbles and Bits, is like eating at MCDONALD’S every day! It is FAST FOOD for dogs!”
“Oh, well I wish they would write that on the label then!”

I also kind of hate to admit it, but there are often some “racist incidents” that happen on the train. While walking to the Brewster train station, I stood in the crosswalk waiting for the cars to go by. It is starting to get warmer, so people have their windows down… and the man shouted out the window at me, “I’ll only stop for you because you’re a white girl!” If you’ve ever been to Brewster, you might have an idea of why this disgruntled man made this comment.

A recent article I read talks about convicts traveling by Greyhound bus. I’ve certainly commented about that in this blog. Greyhound feigns ignorance, but I could have told them that ages ago after taking a 30 day cross country trip via Greyhound. Many people talked about being in prison, leaving prison, etc. Now if it were me, I wouldn’t be telling a bunch of random people on the bus about being a felon or anything like that. So you must imagine for each person that told everyone about their criminal past, there might have been quite a few others keeping their mouths shut!

Don’t get lost in Boston. The cops you might ask for directions from aren’t the most helpful. While traveling with several other girls, we were looking for a place on Channel St. The policeman we asked made it a point to inform us that we were stupid girls and that we were looking for “CHANNEL and not CHANEL.” Yes, because Chanel is ALL we think about.

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Another Weirdo, Another Taxi, and old Greyhound Stories

Coming down the steps from the platform this morning at White Plains, I saw some rather odd guy running around wrapped in a white bed comforter… hmm, is it nappy time? Perhaps another homeless guy I don’t recall seeing before… but it did look like it was a nice comforter… almost like the down one I have on my own bed. Hmm…

In other news, there is yet another White Plains taxi driver that isn’t trying very hard… Here is another artist rendition. Yeah, because the first turned out *so* well…
fishing

Here are some good past memories of Greyhound, after reminiscing with my friend and travel companion:

  • A man that wanted to give me 20 dollars to see if I could fit in the upper baggage hold of the bus
  • Vitaballs vitamins looking very suspicious on baggage x-rays
  • Taking 20 pounds of cheese from Wisconsin 1100 miles by bus
  • Getting soaked in a rainstorm because the skylight window on the bus would not close.
  • Getting hit on by a guy at the Atlanta bus station at 3am while eating icecream, and telling him we forgot our names.
  • Females flashing other passengers… then giving said passengers their “business card”
  • Getting kicked off the city bus in Las Vegas, because we asked the driver directions, and he said he was not an information booth
  • Almost getting kicked out of Canada because we wanted to get our passports stamped, apparently that desire makes them want to investigate you further… so we got detained. And my friend joked around when they asked her how much money she had, and said “a dollar.” Let’s just say the woman who detained us didn’t find this very amusing.
  • Shopkeeper in Wisconsin convincing my friend and I to buy cheese hats… We said that we would have no place to put them in our baggage, and she suggested we wear them on the bus, and told us of a man that was in a plane crash and was protected by his cheese hat, which he couldn’t fit in his luggage. Research into this subject proves that it is for the most part true, though the man was a pilot of a small plane and was not on a commercial aircraft.
  • A man with many face piercings bleeding profusely all over himself, and the bus.
  • A drug addict that lost his bag of drugs…
  • Does Greyhound even sell 30 day bus passes any more???

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    Greyhound

    In case anyone was wondering, Greyhound is the preferred mode of transportation for people that have just been released from prison. On my cross-country trip by Greyhound, I heard this several times. Personally, if I had just gotten out of prison, I’d be keeping that to myself.

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