To avoid any confusion, I should say Hartford Union Station. There are many Union Stations in this country, and I’ve been to quite a few, but almost all of my train journeys pass through this one. While I enjoy the convenience of boarding the train a few miles from my house, I don’t get a chance to walk around the other stations. Last Sunday, I met our daughter in Hartford to begin our journey to New York City. I usually arrive earlier for trains than she does, so I thought I’d get some door photos. I took a little bit of ribbing when my daughter texted me, and my wife, from the platform. Still, I think she understood:
Despite the fact that the city choose “Yard Goats(1)” as the name of their Triple-A baseball team, Hartford isn’t a major rail hub any longer. Sure, a bunch of AMTRAK trains and a few freight trains pass through each day, but 35 minutes farther south, New Haven’s Union Station bristles with activity on 12 active tracks while Hartford struggles with one. One lonely track.
Even back in 1889, when the station served the Hartford and New Haven Railroad, Central New England Railway, and the Hartford and Connecticut Valley Railroad, Hartford Union Station only had four tracks. There were two tracks between the station and a platform and two more on the west side of the platform. The outer two tracks were abandoned years ago, as train travel gave way to cars and planes. The second inner track was abandoned when AMTRAK determined that the underlying structure could no longer be trusted to support two trains at the same time.
Union Station was added to the Registry of Historic Places in 1975. I like the opening description in the application:
“Hartford Union Station occupies an entire downtown block adjacent to Bushnell Park. The area Is one of street-level commercial activity and multi-story buildings of various heights. The station consists of a large three-story central mass flanked by two somewhat smaller two-story wings, all rectangular in plan. The whole building is constructed of brownstone from Portland Connecticut, cut into large, rough-faced blocks, and is in the Romanesque style created by H. H. Richardson.”
Like many of the buildings I have selected for Thursday Doors, Union Station was also altered by disaster. A fire in 1914 destroyed the roof and gutted the interior. The original steep gable roof over the central portion of the station was replaced with a flat steel roof to avoid fire damage in the future.
One architectural feature of the station makes me wonder. An octagonal pinnacled tower rises at both corners facing the street on the southern end of the building. None of the articles I read about the station mention any significance to those towers, but I wonder if they weren’t added to echo the two towers of the Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park. You can see the Memorial Arch from the platform, as you look over the octagonal towers.
Union Station has survived by welcoming retail and restaurant business into the wing sections and by making room for other transportation on the street level. CT Transit and intercity buses both operate out of the station and Union Station is the downtown terminus of the CTfasttrak Busway. In the not-too-distant future, a new commuter light-rail service between Springfield, MA and New Haven, CT will also stop at Hartford Union Station.
This post is another entry in Norm Framton’s fun Thursday Doors series. If you visit Norm’s page, you can see his doors, all the other doors and you can even add your own door.