Rochester's 7th Most Beautiful Train Station in the U.S.

Rochester's 7th Most Beautiful Train Station in the U.S.

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published January 07, 2010 and can be found here.

An old photo of Rochester's Bragdon NY Central Station. Ranked #7 on a recent list of top 10 most beautiful demolished rail stations.

   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.

New York's old Pennsylvania Station before it was torn down in 1963.

   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UPDATE: no longer exists, but you can view an archived version of the old article     here    .

The interior of Rochester's missing rail station. The main waiting room with high arching windows and ornate ceiling would rival New York's Grand Central Station if it were around today.

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.

In place of the Bragdon Station now stands this uninspiring Amtrak building.

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.

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA