As reported by LW! graduate intern Kate Gilmore 

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel holidays. We all move to and fro at a frenzied pace and rarely do we stop to appreciate the fantastic structures that facilitate such rapid transportation.

This past Wednesday, as I waited for my train in New York’s Penn Station, every corner was bustling with activity. Alas, present-day Penn Station is depressing and dark — a far cry from the illuminated, soaring space of McKim, Mead and White‘s original building.

Original Penn Station Interior

However, magnificent train stations still exist!  One in particular that has fallen into disuse and is not well-known is Buffalo Central Terminal located in East Buffalo.  Luckily, I was able to visit this amazing train station during the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in October.  Buffalo Central Terminal is an impressive — both visually and physically! — art deco masterpiece designed by architects Fellheimer and Wagner.  Fellheimer had worked on the architectural team that built Grand Central Station, and together with Wagner was best known for Buffalo Central Terminal and Cincinati’s Union Terminal.

Exterior of Buffalo Central Terminal, c. 1930s.
Source: Buffalo History Works

The Buffalo terminal’s construction began in 1927, and BCT opened to the public on June 22, 1929. Just fifty years later, on October 28, 1979, the last train left BCT. The building then went through a series of different owners. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the building was used as a salvage site. Nothing was done in order to try and revitalize the structure with activities that would make use of the space itself.

Main Terminal in Disrepair.
Source: Buffalo History Works

In 1997, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation purchased the building and began the painstaking process of restoration. Through weekend volunteer sessions and public activities, CTRC has brought people back into the magnificent terminal space. The BCT is an amazing tribute to the former dominance of rail transportation, and CTRC had committed to work with the structure to ensure its re-use. Visit their website to see the current master plan for the structure and learn more about public events.

So the next time your train pulls into the station, remember that the history of rail travel has produced some excellent architecture — to be celebrated and used by current generations.


For more from Kate Gilmore, check out:

The Future of Development on the Upper West Side, July 7, 2011 

From East Side to West Side, newsracks making headlines, July 18, 2011

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