Friday, March 10, 2017

The original plan for the Central Terminal

Last time we took a short and somewhat somber look at the history of Buffalo's lost downtown terminals. Today we're continuing to look at railroads. However, instead of focusing on loss we'll be focusing on things that never came to be. Specifically we'll be looking at the original plan for the Central Terminal and how that building differed from the beautiful building that was built between 1926 and 1929.

By 1907 Buffalo was one of the largest metropolises in America and a major element of the city's success was its dense network of railroads. Freight and passengers rushed throughout the city and many of the major eastern railroads had tracks and stations in Buffalo. Much of the traffic in Buffalo centered around the East Side. Massive train yards, repair shops, depots, and passenger stations dotted the landscape and thousands of people found work in the Buffalo Stockyards. This long demolished complex of pens, slaughterhouses, and meatpacking plants was one of the largest slaughtering points in America and millions of farm animals were shipped by rail to Buffalo each year. With so much activity on the East Side people began to clamor for a grand union station, similar to what was being built in New York City around the same time. Union stations combined the freight and passenger traffic of multiple railroads in one central location cutting down on rail congestion, and smog. In 1907 the New York Central Railroad unveiled their planned station, a $12,000,000 giant that was designed by the firm of Reed & Stern, the architects who'd designed New York City's Grand Central Station. The station was to be built at the junction of Fillmore Avenue and Curtis Street and connected to the city with park approaches and street cars. The proposed station would have alleviated the congestion and freight delays that were plaguing the East Side and the New York Central Railroad proposed consolidating all of its tracks, shops, and car yards within the proposed station.

The union station was intensely debated by the city's aldermen with many of the East Side aldermen heavily in favor of the station, while the aldermen in other parts of the city were concerned the proposed station would undermine the business interests of their neighborhood. Some aldermen attempted to nudge the railroad into building the union station closer to downtown, either at Exchange Street or Terrace Street, however both the East Side aldermen and railroad representatives countered, arguing that downtown was already too congested and lacked the available land necessary to build a massive station.

Ultimately, despite the support of East Side aldermen, the proposed union station was never built and it would be another twenty years before work on the Central Terminal began. As of now I am unaware why the original station was never built. Perhaps resistance came from the aldermen or maybe the railroad realized its proposed site wouldn't work. Regardless, I love this drawing of the proposed terminal and thought I should share it.

If you know why the original union station was never built feel free to message us on Facebook!

Image taken from the Buffalo Courier June 16, 1907.

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