Briarcliff Manor station in the early 1900’s
Of the many old train stations I’ve featured on the site over the years, too many of them have been converted into other things and are no longer have anything to do with railroads. This is especially so when the railroad line the station served has been completely ripped out. It is somewhat bittersweet – as it is sad the railroad is gone, but yet wonderful that someone has taken the time to ensure that the historical building still exists. Too much of our old architecture has been torn down and long forgotten.
The old Putnam Division station at Briarcliff Manor is one example of a building that has been preserved and repurposed. And it is great to see that it has been converted into something as noble as a library (and not a Starbucks, of all things!). A library just seems so appropriate for an old station – it is our temple of knowledge, our archive of history and the written word – housed in a historical landmark, a vestige of a defunct and at times forgotten railroad.
Architect’s elevation of the front of the library. The original portion of the building is shown uncolored.
The Briarcliff Manor Public Library as it is today. The right portion in the photo is the original 1909 station, the left is an addition completed in 2009.
The Briarcliff Manor station was originally built in 1909 by the founder of the village, Walter Law. In the late 1950’s passenger service on the Putnam Division ceased, and the town raised the 12,500 dollars to purchase the building. Additional money was raised for cosmetic work, and to convert the building from a station into a library. The building, however, was not a large one, and it eventually became too small to appropriately house the library’s collection. After years of planning and debate, it was ultimately decided to add on to the original structure. Construction on the addition began in 2007, and was completed in 2009. The interior of the older portion of the building still requires work, but will become a reference area, and most appropriately, a local history section.
Construction about to begin at Briarcliff Manor, 2007 [image credit]
Construction of the addition to Briarcliff Manor, June 2008 [image credit]
Joe Schiavone, known as the “Old Put Guy,” gives a talk at Briarcliff Manor. The former rail line is slightly visible, located in between the fence and the road. It has been converted to a rail trail.
Schiavone has written three books about the Putnam Division. You can support the Danbury Railway Museum by purchasing the two most recent from their gift shop.
It makes me happy to see that they preserved this station, and I agree, the whole library thing seems really fitting.
It makes me sad when towns could care less about their railroading history. Torrington, CT recently tore down their old station because they just left it there to rot to the point of no return :(
Torrington is a good example of that. I remember reading about that before it got torn down. Never got to see that one.
Canaan on the other hand, which is not too far away, are very much proud of their history. Their station was a victim of arson, but yet they rebuilt. If you haven’t been there, I would definitely suggest going, especially since it isn’t too far away from you.
What a beautiful expansion. The old Boston & Albany depot in Westborough, Mass, was added on to a couple years ago and the expansion doesn’t match at all. It’s not quite as ugly as the new station built a mile down the tracks in the ’90s, but that’s not saying much. Oh well.
No one is as familiar with the comings and goings of the now defunct Putnam division than Joe. I saw him a few weeks ago at the train show in Old Greenwich. Having his books and DVD’s it gives you great insight into what was (and could have been) in Westchester county. If he is giving any walking tours of the line (he does 1 or 2 a year even at his age) they are well worth taking. Joe is a great guy and is more than willing to share his knowledge of the Put with anyone interested.
Now I remember the Briarcliff library in the late 80’s early 90’s still having that “It’s not really a library” feel. It does though seem nice to have the addition keep in the spirit of the original building. I wonder if they have his books as well as Westchester’s Forgotten railroads in stock?