Historic Structures

North Philadelphia Railroad Train Station, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Date added: September 28, 2018 Categories: Pennsylvania Train Station

At the turn of the century, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest railroad company in the country, challenged only by the New York Central. At one point, the Pennsylvania carried one out of every five passengers nationally. General freight accounted for much of the company's early business, but after the Civil War, revenue from passenger service increased to become a significant income source demanding more stations of increasingly high quality.

Following the Civil War, established Philadelphia families came to firm control of the Railroad; one such leader was George B. Roberts (1833-1897), fifth president of the Pennsylvania. It was under his leadership that the Broad Street Station was constructed in 1881 and expanded in 1894. Commenced under his tenure was a significant program of capital improvements that included planning a new station at the important Germantown Junction.

A building serving this junction of the Philadelphia to Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill local with the main regional line to New York had been constructed in the 1870's. Anticipating continued rapid expansion of North Philadelphia residential areas and the construction of a rail bridge over the Delaware which would funnel more traffic through this junction, the 1870's station was determined inadequate. The Pennsylvania, through the social connections of president Roberts, hired well known Philadelphia architect Theophilus Parsons Chandler, Jr. to design a grand station at the Germantown Junction. The Germantown Junction had become a vital functional component as well as an important symbol of the preeminence of the Pennsylvania along the northeast corridor.

Construction commenced in May 1896 when excavation began for the foundation, but was halted three months later when Roberts took ill. After a four year hiatus, another major capital expenditure program, now under president Alexander J. Cassatt (1839-1906), included the completion of the station at Germantown Junction. In April 1901, the Chandler-designed station was complete.

Chandler's station complex, as conceived in 1896 and completed in 1901, was a radical departure from stylistic preferences of the previous generation of Pennsylvania Railroad leadership. Prior to the turn of the century, stations were built in Victorian Eclectic (Overbrook Station, Overbrook, Pennsylvania, c.1870) or Furness School (Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c.1881) styles. North Philadelphia Station is a benchmark in the shift from the picturesque eclecticism of the nineteenth-century to the classical Beaux Arts tradition of the twentieth. Chandler's residential and ecclesiastical commissions in the Philadelphia region had established him as a leading proponent of the new academic historicism, and made him an obvious choice for the design of the new station at Germantown Junction.

The North Philadelphia Station was the first along the nationally important New York to Washington rail corridor. to be built using such precise academic vocabulary; the precedent set by North Philadelphia was soon to be followed by the two of the greatest monuments to the rail age, Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania Station in New York. Stations at Baltimore, Wilmington, and Newark were rebuilt around this time, and, in 1929-1934, the last great station was built, the classical Art Modeme Thirtieth Street Station.

Pennsylvania Railroad sold to Consolidated Rail Corporation (ConRail) on 31 March, 1976. Consolidated Rail Corporation sold to National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) on 1 April, 1976.

In 1991, after rehabilitation plans with a private developer were not realized, Amtrak constructed the small concrete and glass block station building clad in tile immediately north of the north passenger tunnel entrance, used as the ticket office.