Waterbury Union Station – Thursday Doors

Welcome to Thursday Doors, a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

As I was walking around downtown Waterbury, I couldn’t help but notice a clock tower standing proud to the southwest. Waterbury is well known as the Brass City, but it also has a rich history with timekeeping. Timex, was founded as The Waterbury Clock Company in 1854. The Seth Thomas Clock Company also had clock making operations nearby and operated a brass mill in Waterbury. I assumed the clock tower belonged to one of those businesses.

I was wrong, but not entirely.

The clock tower is part of Waterbury’s Union Station, but it was built by the Seth Thomas Company. The history of how it came to be built is interesting. Note: most of the information (and half of the photos) shared below is excerpted from the National Registry of Historic Places nomination form. Union Station was added to the Registry in 1974. I will also add that as a railroad buff, it’s a series of sad stories.

Waterbury’s Union Station Is advantageously sited at the intersection of two major streets. A public park to one side and a large plaza – now used for parking – in front provide ample open space and free the building from the crowding which afflicts many downtown stations. The tracks are to the rear of the station; access to the further tracks was provided by two tunnels, one from the station and one from a side street to the west. These are both blocked off now, though the latter still has its original iron railing around the opening. The platform shelters, of the “butterfly” type, have been removed. Most of the rail traffic is generated by the nearby freight yard. There are still four trains a day to Bridgeport, using rail diesel cars, but on the whole the track area has little left to suggest an active rail depot.

The building was purchased by the Waterbury Republic – American a newspaper formed from the merger of two formerly competing newspapers. Fitting, as probably the only industry in the US with a bleaker future than railroads is the newspaper industry. While the outside of the building has been well maintained, the inside is one of the sad stories. It has been carved up for the newspaper. A small seating area that was open in the mid-1970s has been closed, leaving no access to the interior.

The station has four major components: the large, box-like central part which contained the high-ceilinged waiting room and railroad offices on the upper floor, smaller and lower wings to the north and south and the tall clock tower. The whole is 350″ long and 50 feet wide and the tower rises to a height of 245′.

The main facade of the central part is dominated by three tall round-arched openings rising the height of the waiting room, the equivalent of two full stories. These were originally entirely glazed with small panes, but now they have been partially filled in where a new floor was inserted above the doors.

The tower is built on the southeast corner of the main building. Except for rows of tiny openings, it is plain for most of its height. Three quarters to the top, on all four sides is a clock face with Roman numerals. Above is a balcony supported on long, v tapered corbels which come together in the form of bluntly pointed arches. There are gargoyles on the corners of the balcony, and heraldic shields on the solid rail. Finally, there is a smaller belfry stage with large arched openings and another set of gargoyles. The belfry has a cornice of round-arched tapered corbels and a tiled lipped roof. Except for the height of the clock and the lack of battlements, the tower is a detailed copy of its prototype, the 14th-century Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy.

The clock tower was suggested, a year after construction began, by an executive of one of the railroads servicing the area. Rail was critically important to Waterbury, with over 65 trains a day passing through the station. It is thought that that model tower was chosen by the architects as a deliberate rebuke to architectural amateurs (the rail executive). Still, the tower remains one of the most prominent features in the Waterbury skyline.

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131 comments

  1. Train stations are special places.

    I can see how the clock tower stands out, but I thing it rather fits the train station. Bu thank you for its story. Such details are the ones that pin an image to my head :)
    65 trains a day, that was a busy railway knot, even for those times.

    I have a new take on doors for this week, lots of images and a rather unusual cafe from Brasov :) With thanks for Thursday Doors :)
    https://alluringcreations.co.za/wp/brasov-where-doors-hide-surprises/

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the architects might have been surprised. The clock tower has become famous. The railroad executive would be surprised as well, as very few trains run through here today.

      The cafe you shared is certainly one of a kind.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The odd proportion is why they say the architects did it on purpose, to embarrass the railroad executive. It seems to work, it remains a signature landmark for the city.

      I love the door you shared today.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Banks and town/city buildings and some churches used to often feature a clock. Sometimes, the time and temperature. I don’t see it very often, except in older districts.

      Your collection is marvelous.

      Like

    • That’s so cool that you’ve been to the tower in Siena. That isn’t my picture, but the photographer offers it, as long as you provide attribution. I thought it was a nice thing to add.

      Your doors were fun to look at.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great history lesson. Interesting how odd that clock tower is, yet it’s perfect. I think the railroad executive is enjoying the last laugh. 🤗 Wonderful brickwork and arches. I imagine people were in awe when they saw this building inside and out when it was spanking new. It’s still very impressive.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think he did have the last laugh, Ginger. The tower is a signature part of the Waterbury skyline – a hundred years later. I’m sad that we can only imagine the interior in all its splendor. Maybe someday it will be restored. For now, I’m happy that the exterior is being maintained and that they didn’t destroy the details on the interior.

      Like

  3. Hi Dan – fascinating history, which I’m glad is accessible to all who want to read up on it. The tower makes a statement. I’d love to see the area without the snow – sometime, pretty please! Interesting to know Timex started there … I used to own one or two of their cheapy watches.

    I spotted this in Wiki … “Shortly after purchasing the Waterbury Clock Company in 1941, founder Thomas Olsen renamed the company Timex, as a portmanteau of Time (referring to Time magazine) and Kleenex” – interesting and true apparently. All the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very cool, Dan, and nice pics, as always. It immediately brought to mind a nearby landmark for me: Baltimore’s Bromo-Seltzer clock tower, which was completed in 1911. It looks remarkably similar to the Waterbury clock tower. I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen it at some point in your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love to see old buildings refurbished while retaining a lot of the original beauty. For that reason it’s so sad to see one that is abandoned. And I do love clock towers! Our town has one in the centre and while I never read the time it is comforting to see it every time I go by it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When I grew up in Omaha, the Union Pacific trains going across the country came through there and it was a very active train city. Not so much now, I don’t think but I haven’t been back in ages. We took the train to California a few times to visit relatives and my fondest memory is of the dome cars where we could sit and see what seemed like the whole world. There are so many impressive train stations around the country…and the most common name seem to be Union Station.

    Flagstaff, Arizona is still a train town and that’s where my doors hail from. No train station doors, but I am providing lunch!

    https://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2021/03/11/thursday-doors-blue-doors-and-lunch/

    janet

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was adding up the Union Stations I’ve been to over the years. There are a lot of them. I think I knew the reason at one point. On the east coast, we split between Union Station and Penn Station.

      I enjoyed your doors, and the food looked great.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I never knew the history of the clock tower, Gwen, so this was fun to unearth. I wish the building was accessible, but I’m glad it’s being maintained. I hope you’re having a good week.

      Like

  7. Very impressive building and one that I am glad was saved, even if unused….we have railroad tracks, but there has’t been a train on them since we came here 15 years ago, maybe longer…..At one time there was a plan drawn up to have a metro or similar, come from Charlotte, north, to all the pocket communities that had traffic tied up for hours in the morning and evenings going to work on the one and only main road, in and out of Charlotte….None of the communities would even think of providing a train station even though we still have all our cute little train depots….. The problem was parking…..No one had the space for any parking in these communities. So instead, we were were strapped with an overpriced toll road that took ten years to make and was constructed by a company in Spain! There is one toll lane and the rest of the lanes are just as they were. Nobody uses the toll lane! When it is used, it is by an ambulance or police car in case of accident or maybe someone if they are in a hurry to get around the blockage! What a waste and we pay heftily for it through our taxes…..Nobody here voted for it, but Raleigh thought it was needed, but they didn’t have to pay for it! My rant this morning! I need another cup of coffee! So, I’m taking myself and the coffee to Stourhead!
    https://thecadyluckleedy.com/2021/03/11/thursday-doors-stourhead-2/

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve lived in our town for 40 years. We watched as the road into the city got wider and wider, but traffic remained snarled during rush hours. Finally, three years ago, they added commuter rail service. Fortunately, AMTRAK already had service on the line all the way to New Haven, so the stations were in place. They have all had to add parking, but pre-Covid, ridership was better than expected. I hope it bounces back after things can open up again.

      Your tour of Stourhead was wonderful!

      Like

    • I thought you would like the fact that we copied a tower from Siena. If I were going to build a tower, that looks like a good one to copy. I do believe the baggage area door is still there. It’s protected and inaccessible so it should be holding up well.

      Your tour today was wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a beautiful clock tower and what a sight it is! It’s so tall! Yes, I would have said, ” I need to check that out!”
    I’m glad there is still a use for the building, but I wish the railroad was still using it.

    Is that an old Rambler station wagon in one of the NRHP images? The twin grills say maybe not, but it reminds me of a Rambler. I like cars…sorry I got sidetracked. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny you ask about the car! My dad had three Rambler station wagons and that was my first thought as well. I went back to the original document and zoomed in. It’s a Volvo.

      If we hadn’t gotten sidetracked by the virus, CT might have expanded the recent support for commuter rail service. They added it to our area and it was being embraced. Waterbury needs something to bring new life to the city. There is limited commuter rail service to New York, but I think they could easily build on that.

      The tower was a must see item in the skyline. I’m glad I had time to walk over.

      Liked by 1 person

    • They included that story about it being a rebuke in the NRHP nomination form, so I think it’s probably true. It’s funny how it worked out in the end. The railroads are gone, the architects are gone but the tower stands proud 100 years later.

      Like

    • I’m glad you like towers, I do, too. Railroads and newspapers are both struggling for survival. I hope the building continues to be well maintained.

      I like your doors today.

      Like

  9. really enjoyed the historical photos, especially the baggage doors and brick barrel ceiling. sad that a newspaper would ignore/deconstruct such grand architecture. sad that not many newspaper offices like that even exist anymore. sad … ok, I’ll stop. happy for your efforts to share :)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh how I wish you could have seen the inside of this magnificent building. Although, you might have been disappointed. The clock tower is a great work of architecture. What genius to copy the one in Italy. Thanks for a super doors post, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Given that they installed a floor which cuts the windows in half and blocks the view of the ceiling, it’s just as well I didn’t get inside. At least they didn’t destroy the interior, Jennie. One day, maybe we’ll see it as it was meant to be.

      Liked by 1 person

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