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Part III

By: Greg Jandura


- A stormy City Council hearing takes place on the 7th. One Grade Crossing and Terminal Commissioner, James Smith, breaks rank with his colleagues, stating that the controlling majority "Represents the railroad and not the people. It's usefulness is past. It's time is up. But I think that President Crowley is willing to be fair about this and you will get a better deal then the Terminal Commission plan proposes. We got a good East side station by fighting for one and I think the railroad will do its share downtown if the City stands up to it." (15)

       It's no secret that the railroad owns extensive waterfront property and relocation of the Terrace tracks would free up additional land for new industry and waterfront development. Commissioners argue that over the years the lower downtown area and that along the Niagara River has deteriorated, and must be reversed. Opponents of the plan led by Mayor Schwab will not just give the canal bed away when the railroad can purchase it and keep it on the tax rolls. Mayor Schwab is also concerned about the several millions of dollars of taxpayer money that the City will have to appropriate, that it doesn't have, also the closing of some streets, building viaducts and ramps. He's also concerned about affected land owners, who may not be justly compensated. On the 27th, a public hearing is held in City Council chambers. The fight has just begun!

       February - New York Governor Alfred E. Smith is asked by Mayor Schwab to enter the fray, but he refuses.
       April -Engineers representing the City of Buffalo, the Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission, the City Planning Committee, and City Planning Association have been holding biweekly meetings and some harmony has been re-established. It now comes to light that The original Commission plans tentatively did not call for a downtown station, but instead erection of train sheds and utilization of the Lehigh Valley station on lower Main Street. Other issues being addressed include street approach ramps, and the abandoned Erie Canal bed.
         May -Biweekly parleys have failed to bring an agreement on the Downtown Station plan. Meanwhile, the New York Central has completed its plans for the Central Terminal, with construction to begin this Summer.
         June -Immediately after the stormy hearing in City Council chambers in January, Mayor Schwab went to the New York State Supreme Court seeking restraint of the Commission from continuing it's hearings, preliminary to making a contract. The City looses and will seek an appeal. Construction contracts for the new passenger station on the East Side will be awarded July 12th. Copies of plans and specifications have been sent to 17 contractors, many of them located in Buffalo.
         July -The Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission begins holding their final public hearings and the temporary use and improvement, of the Lehigh Valley station is adopted. The Buffalo Real Estate Board, Main Street Association, and Chamber of commerce give their full endorsement. The City Planning Association also lends its support with the proviso that Main, Washington, and Exchange Streets will be cleared of the existing buildings, and that there will be erected thereon, as soon as possible a building in architectural symmetry with the terminal development. The concrete has been finished and the laying of asphalt started on the 50 feet wide and 4,000 feet long Lindbergh Boulevard connecting William Street from Fillmore Avenue with Broadway. Buffalo Central Terminal costing $14,000,000 sitting on 70 acres with 39 miles of track, freight houses, baggage and mail depots will be completed prior to April 21, 1929.
         September -Plans for the main station building of Buffalo Central Terminal are filed with the City of Buffalo Bureau of Buildings on the 8th. Architects are Alfred Fellheimer & Steward Wagner of New York City. The contractors are Walsh Construction Company of Syracuse, New York. R.K. Eilenberger was the Buffalo project's Field Superintendent.
         October -Construction work is being rushed on Central terminal. By the 2nd, excavation work and the installation of foundation footings for the plaza are complete. The Power House frame is up and laying of the foundations for the building proper will begin next week. Mayor Schwab not yet giving up the fight, sends several letters to the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D.C.. Seeking a personal interview and frank discussion of the matter regarding the laying of six tracks in the canal bed, where there now are two through the Terrace, not providing for an adequate downtown station, and street changes. The Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission then informs the City of Buffalo that in order to eliminate dangerous grade crossings on Main, Washington, Pearl, Genesee, and Erie Streets, as part of the $8,2 million Downtown Station plan it will have to bear approximately $2 million of the estimated cost. $3.4 million is allocated for track relocation and $2.8 million for an addition to the Lehigh Valley Terminal. Mayor Schwab believes the action of the Commission carries no legal weight and they have to come to the City Council which will never approve this plan.
         December -The Buffalo City Council agrees to appropriate $657,090 for the extension of William Street from Michigan Avenue to Ellicott Street, connecting it with Broadway and Lafayette Square creating a second east-west through route from downtown Buffalo to the Buffalo Central Terminal.


-The Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission and the New York Central Railroad confer in conference to discuss Downtown Station construction. The Commission will determine what the railroad will pay for use of part of the canal bed.
         February -Buffalo Central Terminal is expected to be completed by December. Steel work on the tower, now visible from downtown, has reached the 12th floor. The remaining floors should be done in a few weeks. One of the two signal stations is under construction. Both the runways used in bringing baggage down from track level and subways bringing baggage up to track level are being walled in. As to not interrupt Belt Line traffic, stringers or supports have to be built to hold up the tracks until concrete roofs are poured. Concrete flooring on the lower level is progressing, and plumbers, carpenters, masons, and electricians are kept busy.
         March -The framework for the tower dome is being erected, while simultaneously brick is being laid on both signal stations. The signal conduits are nearly completed.
         April -Major Schwab has won the war against the Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission. Newly enacted legislation in Albany makes it powerless as any acts of the Grade crossing and Terminal Commission are now subject to the approval of both the City Council and Public Service Commission, the later headed by William A. Pendergast, Chairman. 800 men are now at work on Buffalo Central Terminal and soon there will be 1,200. Ten floors of the tower are bricked up and the limestone for the tower and arches is ready to go into place. Most of the steel work is done. The station could be ready by January 1st, although completion time will not expire until April 21st. Work is slated to begin on the Downtown Station in 1929 immediately after Central Terminal Opens. Both the Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission and City Council are finally in agreement that tracks will be relocated from the "Terrace," to a portion of the abandoned Erie Canal bed, the Lehigh Valley Station will be enlarged, and area streets widened.
         May -A six month contract is to be let on July 1st for the installation of sound deadening material on the concourse and waiting room walls as well as under portions of the building. The time-consuming process of "timbrel vaulting" the Terminal's ceiling would delay the opening by several months. "Developed in Spain by Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), he immigrated to America where he and his son Rafael II (1872-1950 carried on this work. Laminated flat surfaces of masonry tile 3/4" thick in two or three layers is set in a bed of hydraulic cement forming a thin membrane of lightweight masonry with great strength. The layers of tile are over laid at different angles to "break" or cover the joints. A straight course of tiles is often followed by a diagonal course or herringbone pattern. with equal proportions of mortar and tile, the exposed mortar joints and colored tiles create patterns of visual interest." (16)
         August -Mayor Schwab not surprisingly vetoes on the 10th the City Councils approval for the Downtown Station because of the financial cost and unknown station building.
         September -The Car Service Department employing 500, mostly women, will be the only department in its entirety to be relocated into the new Buffalo Central Terminal. Peckham and Lovejoy streets will be widened and repaved. Curtiss street has been rerouted under the station.
         October -Work on Buffalo Central Terminal is ahead of schedule with 800 on the job. An army of painters are working on outside window frames completing the last exterior work before winter weather sets in. Also outside, the yard and mainline tracks have been connected. Canopy frames over the platform are going up, and waterproofing of the train shed roof is almost finished. Brick on the passenger and subway ramps are also completed. All the concrete for the plaza has been laid. In the interior, 150 tons of scaffolding is in place for workers to place the "Guastavino" ceiling tiles. When done the terrazzo or chipped marble floor will be laid by expert floormen. Elevators are being installed and work will then begin on the restaurant. The permanent heating, ventilation, and lighting system together with the plumbing is in place, but will not be used until the Terminal opens. It's also reported that one platform will be open in late November for travelers boarding or detraining on through trains instead of using Exchange street.
         December -The Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission sends out invitations for the first formal inspection of Buffalo Central Terminal on the 13th to city, civic and railroad officials. Additional streets will be widened to include Lovejoy street between Fillmore Avenue and Krettner street; Krettner street between Lovejoy street and Broadway; and Smith street between Broadway and Lovejoy Street.


         February -The New York State Public Service holds a preliminary hearing to find out if the Downtown Station project is eligible for funding for the abolishment of railroad crossings at grade wanting facts and figures from both the City of Buffalo and Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission for the next meeting.
         March -The Downtown Station project is now estimated at $9.2 million of which $7.8 million would be needed for grade crossing elimination. New York State's share would be 50%; New York Central Railroad-40%; Erie County-10%.
         April -The New York Central Railroad starting the 15th will begin moving 1,200 employees over a twenty day period into the Central Terminal from 70 West Chippewa Street, Lafayette Building, Liberty Building, Genesee Building, Root Building, Exchange Street, Lehigh Valley Station, and 45 Main Street.
         May -The New York Central files an abandonment petition with the Public Service Commission regarding the Terrace. Exchange Street will remain open until a suitable Downtown Station is built. (Buffalonians would have to wait another 23 years until a Downtown station was a reality. The Great Depression of the 1930's followed by World War II put this "civic dream" on hold. A ground breaking ceremony was held on November 16, 1949 enabling the relocation of the tracks off the Terrace and onto the Erie Canal roadbed. Buffalo's waterfront and lower Main street area long neglected could now be developed. The Exchange street station opened on August 1, 1952, and the Terrace street Station in use 72 years could now be padlocked and relegated to the pages of Buffalo's railroad history).

       The long-awaited grand opening of Buffalo Central Terminal, the largest station in the state outside of New York City was now at hand. The railroad announced on May 7, 1929 that dedication ceremonies would take place on June 22nd, with the Terminal ready for use by the traveling public on June 23rd, the date the summer schedule goes into effect. At exactly 12:01 A.M. both eastbound and westbound sections of the 20th Century Limited are scheduled to stop briefly for a crew change. The tentative opening day program was announced on June 7th. It was an invitation-only event with tight security. At 10:30 A.M. there was a reception followed by a luncheon at 11:45 A.M. hosted by the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. This being followed by speeches and the departure of the Eastbound "Empire state Express," the first train to officially depart from Buffalo Central Terminal at 2:10 P.M.. Guests will then proceeded to the west entrance to the station where at 2:30 P.M. the flag will be raised and where Mr. Fitzpatrick, as Chairman of the Grade Crossing and Terminal Commission will present the station to railroad executives. Then, New York Central President Crowley will accepted it and then relinquish it to the service of city and state. The Terminal doors were then thrown open for public inspection from 3pm until 10pm.

       Buffalo Mayor Schwab proclaimed June 22nd, a half day City Hall holiday. As part of this celebration, gaily decorated streets, buildings, and homes bid welcome to the $14 million passenger station. Virtually every building on Broadway, from Fillmore Avenue to Bailey Avenue and on Fillmore Avenue from William Street to Broadway were festooned with flags and bunting. Homes and buildings in the network of streets for a wide surrounding area were decorated. This was especially true in the vicinity near the station, the Lovejoy-Curtiss district. Probably the outstanding decoration was the mammoth banner suspended across Broadway at Fillmore Avenue by the Broadway-Fillmore Business Association.

       You couldn't ask for a better day of early summer as the temperature reached 85 degrees on the 22nd on what was probably the biggest single day extravaganza in Buffalo since the opening of the Pan-American Exposition twenty-eight years earlier. The entire event was broadcast through radio stations WGR, WMAK, WKBW, and WKEN. Movie cameras would also be rolling to record this event.

       What was akin to a gala Hollywood premier opening, thousands lined the sidewalks along the wide approaches to the Terminal straining to get a glimpse of the invited guests arriving in their chauffeur-driven Lincolns, Cadillacs, Pierce-Arrows and Packards. Parking was provided for 450 vehicles. The IRC provided frequent bus service every half hour between Shelton Square and Buffalo Central Terminal from 7am. until 9pm. Police security was evident keeping the crowds at a respectable distance from the stations front plaza. A detail of 100 of Buffalo's finest were augmented by a detail of New York Central Railroad police.

       A distinguished company of railroad presidents, prominent figures in the field of aviation, mayors, Chamber of Commerce officials, members of the New York State Legislature and the Ontario Parliament attended. Also there were financiers, captains of industry, civic organizations and the clergy. Hundreds of invitations were forwarded to outstanding citizens in both the United States and Canada. In all, 2,200 requests for invitations were honored.

       In press coverage provided by the Buffalo Times, Buffalo Courier Express, and Buffalo Evening News it was recorded that, "That dream child, the Central Terminal, was formally adopted by Buffalo, Saturday, June 22, 1929.

       "Long an orphan of public discussion, all dressed up in futuristic finery and in the presence of hundreds of distinguished godfathers and godmothers, she became one of that family of monuments, civic and private devoted to the public interest. And she is a dream, or seemed to be when the public gazed upon her for the first time after a series of impressive ceremonies which included feasting, speech making, and the dispatch of the Empire State Express from her portals.

Soon after midnight, however, she will shed some of her finery and don the workday clothes of the railroad miss, who serves busy men and women arriving and departing at or from Buffalo in quest of the world's business or on pleasure bent. A great terminal-declared by railroad executives and civic leaders one of the finest structures designed for transportation service anywhere on earth!

While men predominated, there was an ample representative of women. So great was the demand for seats that tables were set up in the foyers and the concourse and even for many yards into the approach to the train platforms. It was a gay scene, the bright blue, yellow and bright decorations blended with the hats and gowns, the shimmering scarfs of the women, with the roses, the chrysanthemums and carnations that lifted their bright heads from every nook and corner, from every counter, stand and booth.

As the throng of invited guests pressed through the main entrance with thousands of men, women and children lining the broad approaches to this cathedral like structure, a band, (the celebrated Avis Band, from the Beech Creek Railroad, a New York Central Railroad subsidiary at Avis, Pennsylvania) seated in the gallery at the western end of the concourse, leaped into a program of music.

       It was concluded with the singing of "America" by the assemblage, and marked the official beginning of the ceremonies. While the crowd stood with barred heads, Bishop William Turner, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, delivered a brief impressive invocation.

       He said, "Bless O Lord, this great structure, which with Thy aid, has been brought to a happy completion. Bless those who are responsible for it, those who gave it for the furthering of the comfort and progress of this community, those who planned it, those who constructed it, and those who are here today to celebrate the formal beginning of its use. Bless us all, and these Thy gifts which of Thy bounty we are able to receive Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

       A mixed chorus of 150 vocies from among the Buffalo Orpheus, The Guido Chorus and the Polish Singing Circle sang the Creation Hymn. During the luncheon, with a huge corp of Hotel Statler and Hotel Buffalo servers on hand, the Avis band played a series of selections while the chorus sang "The Bells of St. Mary's" (17)

       "The Chamber of Commerce Gala Luncheon men included soup, salad, rolls, boned chicken squab, stuffed chicken served with potatoes and vegetables, topped off by ice cream, all to be washed down with coffee." (18)

       Samuel B. Botsford, Secretary and General Manager of the Chamber of Commerce, was toastmaster. In his opening talk he emphasized that "We are here to celebrate the realization of a hope long deferred. We assemble to congratulate the New York Central upon a splendid achievement, and also to congratulate the City of Buffalo and the entire Niagara Frontier on this great addition to the basic factor of our growth transportation.

         Sometimes a humorous exaggeration reveals most clearly the true situation. During the past week a comedian in one of our local theaters has referred to this terminal, and has called attention to the fact that it is unique railroad station, located so far out that it can serve two cities, Buffalo and Rochester. The real joke is on the comedian and the theater audience which smiles. They fail to realize that this great terminal is not located far away, but is actually at the center of metropolitan Buffalo.

         Not only a railroad station, but also a magnificent office building. Its very situation and the business activities about it establish the fact that our city is a great metropolis. Today we celebrate the complete elimination of all geographical division in our community. Buffalo is no longer restricted to its business life by political boundaries or affected in its business policies by the interest of one street or one section. In its first 100 years of life, our city has grown from Main Street to manhood. The New York Central has declared its faith in Buffalo, and to us has been accorded the privilege of attending this historic event in our civic life."

         Thomas B. Hanrahan, President of the Chamber of Commerce in remarked that "The opening of this great terminal is an outstanding event in Buffalo's history. This terminal means a greater growth for our city and more prosperity for our people...For over a generation, Buffalonians have looked forward to this day. This great structure is finer and larger than we anticipated. It is built not only for the great city in which we dwell, but also for a far greater city of the immediate future."

         The next speaker was New York Central Railroad President Patrick Edward Crowley said, "I regard it as one of the highest privileges that has come to me during my life to be able to say to you today that this completed station is now open for public use; that it could not have been planned and competed without the coordination of effort on the part of everyone interested, railroad representatives, terminal commission members, His Honor, Mayor Francis X. Schwab and other officers of the City of Buffalo. We express to all of you our hearty appreciation of your helpfulness, so characteristic of your city, and, we hope and believe that our relationship will grow even closer and become even more friendly, and that the occasion of today will make the beginning of an epoch of greater cordiality and greater friendship." (19)

End of Part III - go to:  Part I   Part II   Part IV

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