Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Poughkeepsie Station
We are quite lucky to live on this particular section of the Hudson River. We are at the center of it all when it comes to getting around. If for some reason you don’t feel like driving, and would much rather sit back and enjoy the scenery, taking the train is one of the best ways to do it. The station that we have in Poughkeepsie is the third station to have been constructed here and the entire area around it has drastically changed over the past 100 years, but the mission remains the same; catch the train on time.
The railroad first came into town in 1850 and was known as the Hudson River Railroad in the early years. This was part of a line that stretched from Albany down to New York City. The land between Poughkeepsie and Columbia county along the river’s edge is quite rocky and interestingly, the original plan involved surveying land outside of Poughkeepsie and heading north into the countryside, as far as seven miles away from the river to see if the tracks should take that route instead. However, as we know, that plan was abandoned and the trains stayed quite close to the river through the rest of Dutchess County. The Telegraph wrote about the exciting experience of the first train pulling into town on Jan 4th 1850, “the first train of cars reached it (the station) on Friday evening last, and was greeted with enthusiastic cheers as it passed under the fine bridge arched over Main Street near the depot.”
The first station would have been quite small and of course as traveling by train became more popular, a bigger station was needed. Even as early as 1859, reports were made in the Poughkeepsie Journal that work was being done to expand the station. The early photos that we have which were taken in the late 1800s show a one story station on the western side of the tracks. There was once a roundhouse and turntable just to the north which was in operation from 1873 until 1952. Roundhouses and turntables were used by the old steam trains to receive daily maintenance and to be able to turn around safely. Once again in the 1890s there was a desire for a new station as the old one had received much wear and tear and had a leaky roof. In 1901, the Poughkeepsie Eagle News had mentioned that reports of a new station soon to be built were “only a dream” and that “Poughkeepsie will go in mourning for an indefinite period.”
Luckily, the need for a new station finally became a priority for the New York Central Railroad and in 1915 moves were being made to hire architects and contractors. The same firm that had designed Grand Central Terminal, Warren & Wetmore, were brought in to create a new structure in the fashionable Beaux-Arts style. The station is crowned with an elaborate terra cotta cornice and with beautiful masonry designs over its five high arched windows. The large waiting room with its original chestnut benches was modeled after Grand Central Terminal and is lit by three original large chandeliers. The people of Poughkeepsie were craving a station that could match the new character of their city with its grander size, a more attractive facade, and with a view towards the future of industry and commerce, and they were not disappointed.
The new station finally opened to the public in February of 1918 with much fanfare and celebration. Many in the city felt like they had waited forever for the day to come and indeed they had as the papers headlines from 1915 until the opening day were filled with mentions of problems, strikes, and delays. John Van Benschoten bought the very first ticket for a trip to Hyde Park which he did not use as he wished to save the ticket as a souvenir. A contractor by the name of Edward Frazer had purchased the old station and used its materials to build houses on the southern end of town. The station has since received additions and renovations including the addition of the parking garage which stands where the old roundhouse and turntable once stood as well as a pavilion.
Platt, Edmund. “The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie”
Poughkeepsie Journal: 24 Jul 1915, 5 Oct 1915, 18 Feb 1918, 26 Apr 2003
01 – Image of the original NYRR Station in Poughkeepsie, facing north. LH Collections
02 – Color tinted photograph of the New York Central Railroad Station, with the Hudson River visible in the background. LH Collections
03 – Color-tinted photograph of the New York Central Railroad Station in Poughkeepsie. The Poughkeepsie RR Bridge is visible in the background. LH Collections
04 – N.Y. Central Railroad Roundhouse. Shows partial Railroad station Freight house & Vassar Brewery. LH Collections
05 – Image from the Sanborn Map of Poughkeepsie 1913, showing the roundhouse, turntable and station. LH Collections