These days if you want to get to a county fair on Metro-North you head up to Dutchess County, are conveniently met by a bus at Poughkeepsie station, and are whisked away to the long-running Dutchess County Fair. Westchester County used to have a fair too, although it wasn’t quite as constant – stopping and starting numerous times over the years, and is now defunct (folks from the ’80s may recall this catchy tune when the fair was revived and held at Yonkers Raceway).
Today’s artifact is from 1889 – a special Harlem Division brochure advertising railroad specials for the fair, including fare and admission. Held in White Plains at that time, eventually the land on which the fair was held was sold and led to several years of dormancy.
While the horse racing is, of course, to be expected, don’t forget the big event – the BABY SHOW! All the handsome babies of Westchester county are competing, after all!
The fair also featured a dog show and sale…
The main event – horse racing at the fair.
Midway at the Westchester County Fair, circa 1900. Photos from the Library of Congress.
After several years of dormancy, the fair was revived in the ’40s before going defunct again, only to be revived in the ’80s, and again later cancelled.
Any regular commuter through White Plains is likely familiar with Gary Waxman, proprietor of the station’s newsstand. And if you were a real regular, chances are Waxman even knew you by name. Last night, however, marked the end of an era – it was Waxman’s final day of work in the station.
Years before Metro-North was even established, Gary Waxman’s father purchased the retail space for the newsstand in the long-gone Warren & Wetmore-designed White Plains station. The younger Waxman spent weekends working the newsstand, and ultimately opted to work there full time instead of heading off to college. The elder Waxman bowed out of newsstand operations in 1986 due to illness, and Gary has run the business ever since. Much has changed since then, most notably the old station being torn down and a new one constructed in 1987. Waxman’s News was, of course, reestablished in the new White Plains station.
Provided you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard that Metro-North has been hosting customer forums where riders can meet president Joe Giulietti, and pretty much ask him anything. Yesterday’s forum was at White Plains, so I left work a few minutes early to head to the station and meet Metro-North’s new president.
Mr. Giulietti is a rather affable fellow that didn’t seem to mind getting asked “why are trains under 5 minutes and 59 seconds late not considered late?” for the five millionth time by discouraged riders. Along with Mr. Giulietti were other representatives of Metro-North, including John Kesich, senior vice president of operations, Randall Fleischer, Director of Business Development, Mark Mannix, Director of Corporate & Public Affairs, and Marjorie Anders, spokesperson for Metro-North.
My brief chat with the president revolved around the more light-hearted subjects of “how many additional gray hairs have you gotten since you’ve been here,” and “are you absolutely crazy for moving back to the northeast from Florida during the winter?” And while the for-public-consumption story may be that both he and his wife still have family in the northeast, I think the unspoken answer was that he really thinks that he can help Metro-North, a railroad that after last year had pretty much hit rock bottom. To speak such words aloud, however, would be pure hubris. There is no easy or simple fix for Metro-North. Changes will take months, even years. But it seems that the new captain at the helm has the skills to do the job, priorities in the right spot, and isn’t afraid or uncomfortable to rub elbows with the customers that ride his trains. (For the record, I did not ask Mr. Giulietti if he liked April Fools’ jokes).
Before Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore became known for their work on Grand Central Terminal, they were already known by many of the New York Central’s commuters. A handful of the lovely stations still found on Metro-North’s lines are creations of Warren and Wetmore. Yonkers, on the Hudson Line, as well as Hartsdale and White Plains on the Harlem, were all designed by the duo. Poughkeepsie and Mount Vernon (West) were also designed by them, but after the completion of Grand Central (Scarsdale and Chappaqua were designed by the other Grand Central architecture firm – Reed and Stem).
The American Architect was a lovely periodical that featured details, photographs, and plans of various buildings designed and constructed in the United States, published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Flipping through archives of it are pretty interesting, as they feature some amazingly gorgeous buildings. Train stations were occasionally featured, and in 1915 there was an article about two of Warren and Wetmore’s stations on the Harlem Division – White Plains, and Hartsdale.
White Plains station illustrations from The American Architect.
Of primary interest is the portion about White Plains – the Warren and Wetmore station that was torn down in the early ’80s. From the plans and photos, the station looked very much like the still standing station in Poughkeepsie. Several historical buildings in White Plains, including the station, met the wrecking ball as the city strove to update its image, and encourage urban renewal.
The current station, opened in 1987, is a rather ugly substitute for the gorgeous station that was once here. Besides the 38 by 80 foot waiting room, the old station contained various shops, and a shoe shiner. Waxman’s News, which was founded in the old station, and was reestablished in the new, has been one of the few ties between the two buildings – but even that isn’t to last. In the interest of more rent, Metro-North has decided to not renew the leases of either of the two vendors currently in the station. The 30-plus year run of Waxman’s News will come to a close at some point this summer.
Construction work on the new White Plains station, completed in 1987. Photos by Lou Grogan.
Hartsdale, on the other hand, is a bit more cheerful of a story. Not only is the station still around, it has been attractively restored. Although a Starbucks probably wouldn’t be my first choice tenant for an old railroad station, it does seem to work. And as long as it allows the building to be preserved, it makes me happy!
Have you checked out “The New York Commuter’s Glossary” yet? If you haven’t yet heard of the book, it is a humorous little collection of words and illustrations related to the art of commuting. It was written by Mike Malone – who is the man behind Train Jotting, illustrated by the awesome Joe Walden, and of course, designed by me. You can buy copies online, or if you happen to be in the White Plains area, Gary Waxman is selling copies at his newsstand in the train station. You can also find it at the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville.
Gary Waxman shows off the book
Yes, this book was designed while riding Metro-North
The past two weeks I’ve had my camera with me, and decided to brave the horrible parking garage elevator in search of good shots in White Plains. As you may recall, this is the place that I once said was one of my favorites – that is, until I got stuck in the elevator for half an hour, and the White Plains fire department had to break me out. The pasted flyers on the inside of the elevator – giving various “emergency” numbers in case the elevator’s emergency phone did not work – didn’t give me a whole lot of confidence. Thankfully, I did not get stuck, and I got a few nice photos of the station area.
The first photo was from the 10th of February, and the second was from yesterday, the 17th. Both were taken at about the same time, 5:46 PM. Our days are slowly getting longer… and I’m liking this, a lot. Right now I board my morning train in darkness, and again board my evening train in the dark. I’ll be a happy camper when I actually get to ride the train in the light. And maybe I’ll be taking my camera along a whole lot more.
Admit it, readers – somewhere in the back of your head you were wondering when I’d get around to showing you more railroad-themed postcards. My postcard collecting addiction has been well documented, and roughly every other month I do a new post full of my newly acquired cards. Today’s lineup includes Amenia, one of the abandoned Upper Harlem stations, and Towners, another abandoned station. There are also a few cards of station buildings still around today, like Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Scarsdale.
Again, I must sincerely thank Steve Swirsky for his wonderful contributions to our extensive collection of postcards. The Dover Plains, Towners, and White Plains cards are all from his collection.
As we hang out in the aftermath of Irene, stuck with no Metro-North service on this “lovely” Monday, we can at least remember a little bit of history. And even remember a time when our tracks were not covered in mud and trees, there was no flooding, and trains were actually running! As I mentioned last week, here is a “new” set of photos taken in the eighties and nineties, when Metro-North was just a few years old. There are a few more photos of Pawling, more construction in White Plains, and a photo or two of Hartsdale.
Do you love old train photos as much as I do? It has been a while since I last posted some Monday Morning old photos… but I do plan on posting a few for the next couple of weeks. In my endless endeavor to acquire old photos of the Harlem Line, I’ve borrowed and digitized more old photos from Lou Grogan. These are slightly newer than previous photos I’ve posted: at least I was alive when they were captured, albeit a young child. But they are old enough to capture the old platform at Pawling, and construction at White Plains. Though the dates probably vary, my guess is that they are either very late 80’s, or early 90’s – a time when Metro-North Commuter Railroad was a fledgling organization.
I love this one: self portrait of the photographer, at White Plains.
If you missed any of our series of Monday Morning old photos, you can find them here:
Have you ever seen these awesome time lapse videos the MTA has done on the LIRR? When I first saw them, I decided I wanted to try the same thing at some point on the Harlem Line. Yesterday I finally got a chance to try it, unfortunately not in HD (didn’t have a big enough memory card to do the whole ride in HD). The ride first starts out in Grand Central, and heads all the way to Southeast. We make all local stops north of White Plains, with the exception of Mount Pleasant. The hour and twenty minute ride has been condensed into a little over six minutes.
Because I know a few of you more astute observers will find some issues with the video (signals? track?), I will say that this video was taken not from the cab, but from the rear of the train. The footage was reversed to make it appear like it was from the front of the train. This is my first attempt at a time lapse, and I think I’d like to try it again at some point. Perhaps in HD, and possibly from the front of the train, so everything doesn’t look wrong. But as a first attempt, I think this is a pretty cool way to see the Harlem Line.
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.