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Great Railroad Stations - Utica, NY

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

Utica, New York

The New York Central station in Utica, NY is a unique building in the tradition of the classical Beaux-Arts style.  Opened in 1914 during the 'Golden Age of Railroading', Utica's station remains mostly intact, and is still an active railroad station.  Although much diminished from its days when dozens of passenger trains called in the city, it has few peers in today's world.  Consider the fate of her Central sisters: Albany, now a bank office building; Syracuse, formerly a bus station (and not a very good one at that!) and now unused;  Rochester, photos and fading memories;  Buffalo, rotting away in abandonment.  Utica lives!

Union Station occupies the north side of the 300 block of Main St., near Baggs Square.  This location is historic indeed, having been used since the early part of the 19th century for stagecoaches.  Prior, the site was near a convenient fording location on the Mohawk River.  Just east of the station site was located Fort Schuyler, of Revolutionary War fame. Later, toll roads which eventually became NY Route 5 were built west from near the site.  In 1836 a station of Greek Revival design was built on Baggs Square for the Syracuse and Utica Railroad.  This was followed by a new station in 1869.  The 1914 structure was the culmination of a series of public works improvements in the area.  The Mohawk River was relocated, (1901-1907) to alleviate flooding.  A grade crossing separation project was undertaken in 1908 to route Genesee Street over the busy Central mainline and station platform tracks.  Long a junction point for passenger traffic to the Adirondack Mountains, Utica also hosted branchline trains of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, and the New York, Ontario & Western.

Plans for Utica's station were signed by architects Stem & Fellheimer. (The same gentleman, Fellheimer, would later be involved in Buffalo Central Terminal.)  An often repeated story concerns the marble columns used in the station's interior.  Rumor had it that these came from the second Grand Central Station in New York City which was then being removed for the construction of Grand Central Terminal. Contemporary descriptions of the Utica building do not mention the source of the marble.  The evidence suggests that the columns were quarried in Vermont, especially for the station.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Utica station is its interior. From the photo, one can see that Utica provides a glimpse of what station elegance was all about during the railroad's well heeled days. High coffered ceilings, marble columns, and skylights provide a light filled waiting room.  Unique oak benches surround heat fixtures. Walls are furnished in marble, floors in terrazzo.  Flanking the waiting room were located the restaurant of Guillaume & Company, railroad ticket offices, and sundry small newsstands and shops.  The upper floors housed mostly railroad offices.  I first visited Utica in March of 1977, arriving by train with a chapter excursion on the new Turbo equipment. In 1977, the station was quite a bit tattered, and looked in danger of being torn down for an "Amshack".  Happily, a restoration project has put much of the station to productive use, and returned the wonderful waiting room to some of its former glory.  Trackside, one can still watch a parade of Amtrak passenger trains and hustling Conrail freights.  The spirit of the Water Level Route lives, in Utica!

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This page was last updated Thursday, December 06, 2001

2001 Jim Dent - Page created by Jim Dent
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