Buffalo Central Terminal
New York Central Terminal
|Location:||Buffalo, New York|
|Architect:||Fellheimer & Wagner|
|Architectural style:||Art Deco|
|Added to NRHP:||September 7, 1984|
The New York Central Terminal in Buffalo, New York, USA, was a key railroad station from 1929 to 1979. The 17-story Art Deco style station was designed by architects Fellheimer & Wagner for the New York Central Railroad. After years of abandonment, it is in derelict condition, but is now owned by the non-profit preservation group Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. The Central Terminal is located in what is called the Broadway/Fillmore district (or Polonia District) of Buffalo.
The terminal is located about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from downtown Buffalo, and consists of several structures, some of which are or were interconnected. The complex was designed for 3200 passengers per hour.
The main concourse is 225 feet (69 m) long, 66 feet (21 m) wide, and 58.5 feet (17.8 m) tall (63.5 feet [19.4 m] at the domed ends). The concourse included various rental spaces; a restaurant with a dining room, lunch room, and coffee shop; a Western Union telegraph office; and a soda fountain, along with standard station necessities. Curtiss Street runs directly below the concourse, but has been closed since the late 1980s for safety reasons. The concourse is currently owned by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.
The office tower is 15 stories, excluding the main floor, and mezzanine. The 271 foot (83 m) building is owned by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation.
The train concourse is 450 feet (140 m) long and includes 14 high-level platforms. Each platform is accessed by a staircase and a ramp. The train concourse is owned by Amtrak, with the land being owned by CSX.
The baggage building on Curtiss Street is owned by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. It is a five-story building immediately adjacent to the Main Concourse.
The mail building along Curtiss Street is owned by the City of Buffalo. It is a two-story building adjacent to the Baggage Building.
Railway Express Building
The Railway Express Agency was the early forerunner of today's Federal Express, UPS, etc. The building is located behind the Mail Building of the complex and is by far the most decayed building. Trains would pull directly into the building to proceed with the load/unloading of goods. This building is currently owned by the City of Buffalo, which has confirmed plans to demolish it.
The first building built as part of the project was a cogeneration power station that provided heat and electricity to the complex, even during construction. It contained three 28-foot (8.5 m) coal boilers. The buildings smokestack was dismantled in 1966 to save on taxes. The power plant itself lasted up until the mid-1980s, with its exact demise not known.
Other buildings included a Pullman Company service building (demolished 1966), an ice house (demolished 1966), a coach shop (demolished 1966), and two interlocking towers, numbered 48 and 49, which were torn down to lower property taxes.
Planning and Construction
During the late 19th Century, Buffalo had several railroad stations, and there were calls for a single union station. In 1889, a Union Station was proposed to be built on the site of the future Central Terminal, but it never happened.
The New York Central (NYC) had two stations in Buffalo in the early 20th Century: the Exchange Street Station and the Terrace Station. Both of these downtown stations were old—Exchange Street dated to before the American Civil War—and were plagued with downtown congestion.
The New York Central decided to build the new Buffalo Central Terminal 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the east, in order to relieve both rail and grade crossing congestion and to be more conveniently located for trains not terminating in Buffalo. A roomier area would also ease the transfer of sleeping cars between trains. Furthermore, Buffalo was a quickly growing city at the time, and it was believed that before long Central Terminal's area would become closer to the center of a sprawing metropolis of 1.5 million people. The City was not so sure, but planning was well underway in 1924, despite the lack of an agreement at the time.
The New York Central finalized its decision to build the terminal in 1925, and site preparation began the following year. New York Central President Patrick Crowley hired Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner to build the actual station in 1927. The total cost of the project was 14 million USD. Prior to the building of the station, the site was bounded to the south by the New York Central main line, to the northwest by the NYC's West Shore Railroad, and to the east by the NYC's Junction Railroad. When the station was built, the West Shore was abandoned between the NYC main line and the Junction Railroad, being rerouted via the other two lines and the new station. The former West Shore right-of-way is now Memorial Drive.
A grand celebration attended by 2,200 invited guests on June 22, 1929 opened the station. Speakers included Henry Thornton and Frank X. Schwab. Although an eastbound Empire State Express departed the station at 2:10 PM, the train was not a regular one, and was really just ceremonial. The station did not open until the celebration ended at 3:30, and scheduled service began on June 23.
New York Central
When the New York Central operated the 20th Century Limited, Central Terminal was located about 44 miles (71 km) east of the half-way point from New York City to Chicago, and the trains would pass each other near there.
Central Terminal was almost always too large throughout its history. Although it started with 200 trains daily, the Great Depression began less than a year after its construction, and the rise in automobile usage also hurt passenger levels.
There was a burst of activity during World War II when the station actually had a reasonable amount of train traffic for its size. Some trains making daily calls at the station were the Mohawk, the Fifth Avenue Special, the Wolverine, the Water Level Limited, the Southwestern Limited, the Interstate Express, the Ohio State Limited, the Cleveland Limited, the Lake Shore Limited, the 20th Century Limited (engine crew-change stop only), the New England States, the Fast Mail, the Missourian, the North Shore Limited, the Knickerbocker, the Boston Express, the New York Special, the Detroiter, the Empire State Express, the Advance Commodore Vanderbilt, the Commodore Vanderbilt, the New England Wolverine, the Chicago Express, The Midnight Special, the Royal Palm, and the Ponce De Leon, plus unnamed trains to make a total of 152 daily trains in 1944.
After the war, the station again entered into decline, so the New York Central offered the terminal for sale in 1956 for one million dollars. No one took up the offer. A company called Buffprop Enterprises did negotiate a 25-year lease of the terminal in 1959, but it ended the following year. In 1961, train service to Niagara Falls, New York ended.
In 1976, Penn Central became part of the Consolidated Rail Corporation. These two freight railroads continued to own the Terminal and kept offices in the tower.
On October 22, 1977, Amtrak restored service to Niagara Falls and Toronto via the Maple Leaf. The financially strapped passenger carrier was in no position to rehabilitate Central Terminal, resulting in the reopening of the Buffalo-Exchange Street Station for both the Maple Leaf and Empire Service trains.
The Terminal's usage continued to plunge, leading to Amtrak replacing it with the new Buffalo-Depew station in 1979. The last train departed the Terminal on October 28. Conrail closed its Terminal offices in 1980.
After closing to passenger traffic in 1979, the building was purchased by Anthony Fedele & Galesi Realty for $75,000. Fedele used the building for a variety of purposes, including gala events, markets, floor hockey games, and more. In 1981, the bridge which connected the train concourse and passenger platforms from the terminal and main concourse was demolished to allow passage of high freight cars on the Belt Line. Fedele enjoyed the building so much, that he built himself an apartment to live in within the Terminal.
In 1984, the Terminal was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1986, Anthony Fedele defaulted on his taxes and US Bankruptcy Court Judge John W. Creahan ordered a foreclosure sale. The Buffalo Central Terminal was put up for auction and won by Thomas Telesco, the only bidder, for $100,000. Telesco began the process of selling the architectural artifacts and other items of value from the building. The building was then acquired by Bernie Tuchman and his uncle, Samuel Tuchman.
This period was one of great decay for the Terminal. The Terminal's main buildings were subject to extensive artifact removal. Once a truck was being used to remove ceiling lights when it backed into the famous plaster bison statue in the concourse, smashing it. Artifacts removed and sold included iron railings, signs, lights and mailboxes. Further, the building was not secured, and vandalism was extensive, and even included some arson attempts. It is said that the only thing that saved the building was the fact that demolition would have been too expensive (12 million USD).
Reacting to complaints and questions from preservationists in Buffalo, the owners responded, "If you think you could do a better job, I'll sell it to you for a dollar."
Central Terminal Restoration Corporation
Scott Field of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County bought the building in August 1997 for the purchase price of $1 and assumption of approximately $70,000 in back taxes. Shortly afterward, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (CTRC), was formed and currently owns the Concourse, Tower and Baggage Building.
The CTRC is a non-profit, volunteer organization whose goal is to preserve the Terminal and help promote it as a viable redevelopment opportunity in the City of Buffalo. The CTRC received money to restore and relight the exterior tower clocks located on the 10th floor, relighting them on October 1, 1999. Also in 1999, a state grant for $1 million was obtained to begin the process of sealing and protecting the complex. The top of the building was re-lit starting on May 11, 2001. In 2003, the building was re-opened for public tours.
Currently, the Buffalo Central Terminal is host to approximately twenty major fund raising events each year. Work continues to progress and new areas of the building are cleaned up and reopened to the public each year. Since 2003 over 90,000 people have visited the building. This is more than the local Frank Lloyd Wright properties of Western New York have had. The building has been a host to tours, art shows, local political events, train shows, annual Dyngus Day and Oktoberfest, weddings, as well as a temporary art installation by controversial artist Spencer Tunick in 2004.
The clock in the center of the concourse, sold by earlier owners, was located in Chicago in 2003. In late 2004, the clock was purchased for 25,000 USD through fund raising organized by WBEN and a donation from M&T Bank. The clock was on display in the Terminal during the 2005 event season. In the fall of 2005, it was relocated to the lobby of M&T Center in downtown Buffalo, where it remained until spring of 2009. The clock was then moved back to its original location in the Terminal concourse where it will sit permanently on public display.
In November 2005, Red Scream Films LLC shot their first feature film Prison of the Psychotic Damned in the Terminal. This ultra-low-budget film details what happens when a group of dysfunctional ghost-hunters decide to spend a night in the long rumored to be haunted structure. A benefit sneak-peek screening of the film with all proceeds going to the CTRC was held June 23, 2006 at 6pm. The film company returned to the Terminal in August to shoot part of their third feature "FrightWorld".
The paranormal investigators, The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), visited the terminal for about a week in June 2008 and aired their findings on Ghost Hunters (Episode 417 - "Speaking With the Dead"), September 24, 2008. Footage taken during this investigation shows that, aside from the main concourse, the entire complex is still currently in a state of heavy disrepair. The spin-off show Ghost Hunters Academy visited the terminal for the episode broadcast December 2, 2009. On October 31, 2010 (Halloween), Ghost Hunters aired a live 6-hour broadcast from the station.
The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, in cooperation with local, state, and federal government representatives, is working to position the Terminal to be Buffalo's high speed rail station. Buffalo, New York is part of the Empire Corridor, one of only ten Federally designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States.
- 1925:An increasing need for a new train terminal is being seen in Buffalo. The current terminals were very hard to navigate through and were becoming too old to use. Buffalo was also becoming known as a train city with hundreds of trains going in and out each day.
- 1925:The documents of the Buffalo Central Terminal are signed, allowing the Terminal to be located where it is today.
- 1926:Construction begins, track is laid, and Lindbergh (now Memorial) Drive was created.
- 1927:Construction begins on the 17 story office tower.
- 1928:Steel work is done the entire year, the last rivet was laid in December.
- June 22, 1929: Grand opening of Terminal, which brought out 2,200 people for the gala. The first train departed at 2:00 p.m. that day.
- 1940s:After a decline in use of trains, the amount of people traveling on trains increases due to World War II.
- 1956:Due to a decrease in train usage, the BCT is put up for sale for $1,000,000, which is about 1/14 of its original cost, and does not sell.
- 1959:The city allows the New York Central Railroad to discontinue service between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
- 1966: The Pullman Service Building, Coach Shop, Ice House, and Power House are demolished to reduce costs.
- 1968:The New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad merge to form Penn Central, the new owners of the Terminal.
- 1970:Penn Central goes bankrupt.
- 1971:Amtrak created, and used the Terminal as its central Buffalo station.
- 1976:Penn Central RR,Lehigh Valley RR, Erie-Lackawanna RR, and Lehigh & Hudson River RR merge forming Conrail, the new owners of the Terminal.
- August 28, 1979: Amtrak abandons the Terminal on October 28, for the newer Dick Road station in Depew. They also reopen the Exchange Street station downtown. Anthony Fedele & Galesi Realty buy the Terminal for $75,000.
- 1981:Train concourse bridge is demolished so taller freight cars can pass through the station on the "Belt Line".
- 1984:The Terminal is placed on the State and National Registers of Historical Places, therefore it is now unable to be torn down.
- 1985:Tony Fedele requests energy surveys from the NY State Energy Office for the remaining 5 buildings that were part of the Terminal.
- 1986:Fedele goes bankrupt and the Bankruptcy Court and Thomas Telesco wins it for $100,000, being the only bidder.
- 1986-1997: The Terminal faces a period of mostly neglect. The two owners during the period, Telesco and Tuchman pawn off most of the valuable items and vandals who can easily access the building destroy it. Weather also damages it, causing severe water damage to much of the concourse. A few arsons also occur.
- 1990:Complex sold to Bernie Tuchman.
- 1993:The concourse, owned by Amtrak, is leased for heavy equipment storage.
- 1997:The Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corporation buys the Terminal for $1, and about $70,000 in back taxes.
- 1999:$1,000,000 of Erie County money was set aside to fix the tower. The clock was re-lit again October 1 of that year.
- 2000:A large snowstorm causes the city to dump loads of snow on the unstable property, and the Central Terminal Restoration Cooperation (CTRC) sues the city for $1,000,000. The city decides to take away the $70,000 the CTRC owes the city for back taxes.
- 2003:The removal of 350 tons of debris, repairs, asbestos removal, roof and the repair of 4000 windows, the Terminal is able to be opened for tours.
- November 2003:The BCT is put on the Preservation League of New York State’s "Seven to Save" list.
- 2004:BCT turns 75 and has a big celebration. The city gives them $75,000 for rehabilitation of the building.
- May 2005:The original concourse clock, found for sale on eBay out of Chicago, was (with the help of M&T Bank, WBEN and many Buffalonians) saved, and the CRTC was able to purchase it.
- 2006:The Buffalo Central Terminal has 20,000 visitors, breaking a record, due to Oktoberfest, the Buffalo Brewfest, and the Train Show.
- 2007:CRTC celebrated 10th anniversary as the Dyngus Day celebration comes back to the Terminal.
- 2008:Two large projects are completed: abatement in the restaurant area and concrete work by the entrance.
- 2009:The Buffalo Central Terminal celebrates its 80th Anniversary in June and the Main Concourse Clock returns to the Terminal.
- 2011:Master plan outlining reuse of the complex released to public. CTRC awarded a $306,000 grant from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to repair and restore two of the original entryway canopies. A replica Buffalo statue is placed in the Main Concourse. Urban Habitat Project launched to transform a portion of the grounds. First public tours up to the thirteenth floor of the tower are held.
- 2012:With help from public donations, the CTRC acquires one of the Terminal's original light fixtures for $3,000 from a Toronto antique dealer. After raising the $3000, the dealer agrees to donate the fixture to the CTRC, provided the money raised is put toward the Adopt-A-Tile roof campaign to replace the aging concrete roof tiles.
- 2013:CTRC begins phase 1 of the replacement of the roof over passenger waiting room and installation of solar panels for added electricity. Replacement concourse light fixtures are made from the donated original light fixture by Sheet Metal Workers Union 71.
Several notable statues have graced the station's space over the years. The station once had a stuffed American bison in the concourse, belonging to the Buffalo Museum of Science and used to advertise the museum. Passengers (including soldiers bound for World War II) rubbing their hands on the bison caused it to become worn, so it was removed to the Buffalo Museum of Science and replaced with a plaster cast, bronze painted statue. This statue was accidentally destroyed by an owner during abandonment. A bronze recasting from the original molds can be found outside Alumni Arena at the University at Buffalo North Campus. In October 2011 the buffalo in the terminal was replaced by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation with one made out of fiberglass.
After the station was closed, the statue called "Progress" was placed on the terminal plaza by Anthony Fedele, who was the owner of the building after it closed down. The statue is said to have been of Madonna and Child. It was ruined when an attempt was made by the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation to move the statue to the Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, New York.
- The station appears in an episode of Route 66 1960-1964.
- The station appears in Best Friends. It was shot in 1982.
- The station appears in Vamping. It was shot in April 1983.
- The station appears in The Natural. It was shot in August 1983.
- The station is featured in the September 24, 2008, episode of Ghost Hunters.
- The station is featured in the December 2, 2009, episode of Ghost Hunters Academy.
- The station was featured on Ghost Hunters Live Halloween special on October 31, 2010.
- The station was the setting for the music video "The Frail", produced by Park School Media. The entire video was shot on site.
- The station is featured in the June 27, 2011, Buffalo episode of Off Limits.
- "National Register of Historical Places - New York (NY), Erie County". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-02-22.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Buffalo Central Terminal|
- Central Terminal Restoration Corporation
- Broadway Fillmore Alive (Neighborhood Website)
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Buffalo Central Terminal at Opacity.com
- Central Terminal Page on "Buffalo as an Architectural Museum"
- Current photos of the terminal
- Buffalo's Historic Polonia District