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.