Sunday, January 25, 2015

Back to the River: Crossroads

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Whether or not we know the meaning of a place, meanings may accumulate over time. The tower, of course, belonged to Waterbury's Union Station, the architects: McKim, Mead, & White who set the tastes of Yankee elites. 

When it opened for business in 1909, as the Railroad Consolidated, Union Station gave new form and focus to the head of Grand Street, commanding a grand, broad boulevard soon to pass harmoniously between brass and government dedicated to a City Beautiful, a place for parades and ceremony in an age before the Model “T".

Union Station Tower stands at the crossroad where the Naugatuck Line, following the valley, once crossed lines heading east to the Connecticut River and New England, and lines heading west to the Harlem Valley, Hudson Valley, New York City and the World. I’ve read of sixty trains a day stopping here, exchanging goods, transacting business. Salesman with sample cases and young mothers with babies in bunting passing between rowed platforms as steam rose around waiting trains, and further back the freight yard sprouted branches from branches to the river. I’ve crossed over sixteen branches of rusting track and found rails, ties and broken abutments along the river all the way to Freight Street. Of course Union Station was always a sham; never really a "union station,” the lines it united were all NYNH&H-owned.

Today Union Station is no longer a station. The building is owned, preserved, and used by the Republican American Newspaper, regional successor to Waterbury's last newspapers which many of us read on our smart phones. Trains still arrive at a nearby platform, northern terminus of the Naugatuck Line and Union Station’s Tuscan Tower still ceremoniously points the way.

For more memories of Union Station order:
BRASS VALLEY: The Fall of an American Industry

from Schiffer Books
or wherever fine books are sold.

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