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Holyoke's Famous Rail Station

While Holyoke's taken steps to preserve their historic train station, there are no plans to return it to use serving rail passengers

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Thursday, June 18, 2009
Mark Roessler Photo
Designed by the famous Victorian architect, H.H. Richardson, the Holyoke train station now stands empty

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A recent Valley Advocate story on Palmer's Union Station ("The Town of Seven Railroads," June 4, 2009), prematurely declared the demise of the Connecticut River Railroad Station in Holyoke. A number of readers pointed out that the 1883 passenger depot still stands at the corner of Lyman and Bowers streets, though in a neglected and much deteriorated state. Like the Palmer station, it was designed by the Boston-based architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who is widely considered one of the great early American architects.

The building was bought in 1965 by Perry's Auto Parts, Inc. after it was no longer used for a station; it was used as a machine shop for many years, but has stood vacant for nearly a decade. The building was listed as one of Massachusetts' Ten Most Endangered buildings in 2004. According to Preservation Mass, which compiled the list, the owner had said he intended "to save it in remembrance of his first arrival after emigration from Canada."

In May, it was purchased by Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E), a subsidiary of the City of Holyoke, for $350,000, but there are no plans for the station's reuse as a station. In an email, Mayor Michael Sullivan explained that federal stimulus money for transportation improvements is not meant to be spent on preservation, which is why he suggested a spot two blocks away for a new station. "Renovating these facilities remains three times as expensive on average than replacing them with modular, pre-engineered structures," he wrote. "The good news is that the HG&E will seek some viable uses for the long mistreated building that is important to Holyoke's history. It may be part of the [newly announced] Holyoke High Performance Computing Center or may be part of other investment."

Comments (4)
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I have something to say to Mayor Sullivan. Federal stimulus money could not be better spent than on historic preservation, as it "kills two birds with one stone." These old buildings are the soul of any town, and once lost, that loss will be felt forever. This station is one of the central landmarks of Holyoke. It may be cheaper to build an ugly, modern, essentially temporary (for if it is cheap, it is sure to be temporary) structure, but it will likely be a blight on the otherwise historic landscape, and a GREATER expense when combined with the cost of preserving of the old structure. The big picture: aesthetic, historical and financial, demands that the old station be restored and returned to the service for which it was originally intended.
Posted by Richard Savary on 6.25.09 at 11:42
I recently bought a picture at a toy train show ntitled "Holyoke Train Station- circa 1890" Having been born in Holyoke in 1939, I realized that this picture was not one of the station I knew and loved. So I Googled and came across this great article by Mark Roessler. Since the article says the station was around in 1883, my picture could be marked incorrectly. Does anyone know of another station in Holyoke around 1890. If my picture is correct, it looks like it could have been on Main St. Any thoughts?
Posted by Ray Kruczek on 10.20.09 at 16:47

In reply to Richard Savary - the article doesn't come right out and say this, but I came away with the impression that the federal stimulus money could not legally be used for preservation projects. The wording "is not meant to be spent on preservation" could be Mayor Sullivan's opinion, but I took it as his expression of a constraint that was imposed on him. I could be mistaken.

Posted by Rich Way on 4.16.10 at 17:57

In regards to preservation, let us remember the ill fated original New York City's Penn Station. Its premature demolition in the name of cost and Modernism, deprived its city of a classic Gilded Era landmark. Legislation after its razing saved the much loved Grand Central Terminal. Grated this is in by no means on the same scale, but i think the principle is clear. Our historic buildings are worth saving, especially if they can continue to be useful.

Posted by Colin Murray on 4.20.10 at 23:22
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