Wednesday, May 22, 2024

MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL PRESERVAION

MassHistPres Digest, Vol 74, Issue 8

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Today’s Topics:

    Re: Arlington Town Hall cupola demolition (Amy D. Finstein)

Re: [MassHistPres] Arlington Town Hall cupola demolition

Worcester’s Union Station (1911) is a great example of rebuilding with new materials to look like the original historic material. The station originally had 2 white terra cotta towers that could not tolerate the intense vibrations from the passing trains, and were taken down about 15 years after the building opened.

After being nearly abandoned and falling into great disrepair, the building was restored and preserved beginning in the late 1990s, including the reconstruction of the 2 original towers using a steel frame with fiberglass cladding. The resulting towers now rise again as important landmarks in the urban fabric, and were done with great attention to the original details.

recent article in Conde Nast Traveler listed Worcester’s Union Station as one of the 14 most beautiful train stations in the country, taking its place on the list alongside six other Union Stations. The honor is richly deserved, given the building’s long and checkered history.

“Almost everybody of a certain generation went through the building for something important in their lives,” said Worcester architect Rob Para Jr. of Lamoureux Pagano Architects. “It was a major focal point for the city over the years.” Traveling anywhere for any reason meant passing through Union Station. Para recalls that people of his parents’ generation boarded trains here in readiness for their journey to fight in World War I. “It was a big part of people’s lives.”

“Was” being the operative word — it was the central point for transport in and out of Worcester. Today, the station has a melancholy air about it, as if it feels the absence of the throngs who once passed under its roof. The echoing sounds lend a feeling of abandonment due to the reduced number of trains and the enormous space that stands empty during the pandemic. Looking up at the great stained glass ceiling of the grand hall is awe inspiring but everything about the structure radiates the air of a dignified grande dame waiting for her audience. 

At the time of its construction, the station was considered the most beautiful building in Massachusetts and rivaled Union Station in D.C. for the grandeur of its interior spaces. It is about 110 years old, having been completed in 1911 by Philadelphia architectural firm Watson and Huckel.  The structural instability caused by the vibration of the trains meant that the original towers had to be taken down in 1926, and as passenger routes declined in frequency, the station was not as popular.  In 1972, the station was boarded up and Amtrak actually used a separate station to service the area. The building was left in a state of decay for over 30 years and the city planned to have it demolished before public interest in its restoration started to pick up