Tag Archive for 'trains'

Buffalo Central Terminal Update

Chuck Maley's Central Terminal picturesA while back, I post­ed about a piece of archi­tec­tur­al won­der­ment lying van­dal­ized and dor­mant in Buffalo—the old Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal. It’s a beau­ti­ful Deco train sta­tion from the 1920s, plopped into an oth­er­wise unex­cep­tion­al sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hood.

At the time the sta­tion was built, Buf­fa­lo was still an indus­tri­al and cul­tur­al cen­ter, with a pop­u­la­tion over one-half mil­lion. It was sec­ond only to Chica­go for its tan­gling rail net­work. How­ev­er, by the late 1970s, both the city and the sta­tion had seen bet­ter days. The sta­tion was board­ed up, and the trains instead stopped at a new, strip-mall like park­ing-lot sta­tion not far away.

Well, there is some good news… it seems that some peo­ple do care about pre­serv­ing the city’s her­itage. Despite its van­dal­ized and trashed inte­ri­or, the build­ing is draw­ing crowds—including some Cana­di­an urban explor­ers.

What I love about struc­tures like the Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal is that they were built for the pub­lic to use. It’s absolute­ly unthink­able to imag­ine pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions build­ing such pub­lic spaces today—I think those years have passed, (as have the years of ridicu­lous­ly cheap immi­grant labor).

Here’s hop­ing there is a devel­op­er out there with deep pock­ets and a cre­ative will.

The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal at a glance:

  • The Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal opened four months before the Wall Street crash of 1929
  • Designed to han­dle an antic­i­pat­ed Buf­fa­lo pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 mil­lion, it cost $14 mil­lion to build
  • The 17-sto­ry office tow­er stands 271 feet high
  • The sta­tion closed in Octo­ber 1979 after years of dwin­dling rail pas­sen­ger ser­vice
  • A 1969 study esti­mat­ed it would cost $54 mil­lion to restore it for office use, and $16.3 mil­lion to demol­ish it

Trains are better than Cars

Cen­tral Sta­tion, Buf­fa­lo, NY, cir­ca 1930.

Presley’s sis­ter Kel­ly was in town this past week­end, and she left yes­ter­day on the Amtrak train from Back Bay Sta­tion, which got me think­ing about train sta­tions and trains in gen­er­al. Every­one in these New Urban­ist books that I read can’t fath­om how Amer­i­ca end­ed up wed­ded to the auto­mo­bile, while the Euro­peans remain con­tent­ed with trains.

I think it’s a sim­ple answer: after the war, we just could. It was the thing to do, and we had the resources. But, isn’t there some­thing won­der­ful about trains? And more impor­tant­ly, big city train sta­tions? Grand Cen­tral in Man­hat­tan is gor­geous. Mod­erin­ists moan on about how style should be down-played because it is the taste of eco­nom­ic elites, but I don’t care if putting a build­ing like that up was a cap­i­tal­ist show of wealth and power—it had beau­ty, craft­man­ship and it was a place where peo­ple of all races and incomes passed through. They destroyed Penn Sta­tion in the six­ties to put up Madi­son Square Gar­den. big whoop. If any­thing, MSG is more cap­i­tal­ist-mind­ed than the build­ing it replaced.

So, it brings me around to Buf­fa­lo and Kelly’s depar­ture… Ear­li­er in this cen­tu­ry, Buf­fa­lo actu­al­ly was in the top 5 for most rail­road track—Buffalo had indus­try, and it was locat­ed on the impor­tant route between new york and chica­go. The city built some beau­ti­ful train sta­tions (sub­se­quent­ly demol­ished), who’s archi­tec­ture seems won­der­ful­ly as grand as Grand Cen­tral itself. The last remain­ing sta­tion, Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal, still stands on the East Side, though it’s falling apart. I wish to God the city could find some new use for the facility—problem is, it is locat­ed in the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed area of the city.