Holyoke's Famous Rail Station

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."

Author: Mark Roessler

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