Building Description Ampere Railroad Station, East Orange New Jersey

The Ampere Railroad Station in the City of East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, was located east of Ampere Plaza and extended from Fourth Avenue on the south to Springdale Avenue on the north. The Ampere Station complex consisted of a two-story red brick station building in the Renaissance Revival style, with an attached wood frame and concrete canopy, and platforms on either side of the tracks. A concrete staircase south of the station and a concrete pedestrian tunnel provided access between the eastbound and westbound platforms. A single-story shelter and canopy were located on the westbound side.

Immediately east of the Ampere Station site is a vacant lot where the Crocker-Wheeler Company factory was located; beyond this lot to the east are two-and-a-half story residential structures and scattered industrial and warehouse structures. Industrial and warehouse structures are located to the south and to the northeast; small-scale apartment buildings face the station site to the west across Ampere Plaza. The nearest commercial street is Fourth Street, one block to the west of the station site.

The 1921 Ampere Station building, located west of the tracks, was a two-story brick structure of rectangular plan. The main section of the station was three bays wide and two bays deep with a shallow gable roof, its ridge paralleling the tracks. Prominent gable end copings with notched comers and segmental arch profiles rose above the roof, forming a parapet. Flanking the main block on the north and south were two single story wings, each with a pent roof. The wing to the north was four bays wide and three deep with the two end bays forming a portico supported by concrete Tuscan columns. The south wing, two bays wide and three bays deep, was entirely open and similar to the portico on the north. A short rectangular brick chimney rose from the coping at the north end of the station's main block. Roofing was green-glazed terracotta tile.

The main and west facade of the station building had a central, two-story round-arched concrete door surround with radiating voussoirs and a keystone. Deeply recessed in the concrete door surround were double doors. The door surround was flanked on either side at street and track level by sash windows, segmentally-arched with concrete keystones and spring blocks at the second story level and trabeated at the first story. First story windows were covered with decorative iron grilles. Concrete was also used at the foundation, copings, lintels, sills, and chimney cap. The eaves of the main facade had decorative wood brackets.

The east facade contained a central window flanked on either side by doors with transoms. The upp~r north and south facades each contained a single multi-pane round-arched window with sidelights and a continuous transom light while the lower south facade contained a central window flanked by doors. (When the second floor was built, the window was bricked over and the doors converted to windows). The north wing contained three windows on the west facade and two windows and a freight door facing the portico. The lower east facade abutted a concrete retaining wall. The 1921 improvements included a concrete-paved ramp to facilitate baggage and freight handling that rose from the north portico to a track-level loading area north of the station.

The westbound platform shelter at Ampere Station was constructed in 1921, east of the railroad tracks, and consisted of a single-story brick building of rectangular plan. The shelter had a concrete foundation and a hipped roof, its ridge paralleling the tracks. The west facade had three windows and a door and the east facade had four windows. The north and south facades had no fenestration. Roofing was green-glazed terra cotta tile.

Both platforms, resurfaced with asphalt in the 1980' s, were originally constructed of concrete. The eastbound (to Newark and Hoboken) platform extended 946 feet. This platform was covered by a canopy nineteen bays long that was centrally attached to the station with seven bays to the north and nine bays to the south. The canopy's wood frame hipped roof was supported on wood beams with shaped ends, above concrete Tuscan columns with cast iron bases. The soffit consisted of matched boards with attached incandescent lighting fixtures, one to a bay. The roof was sheathed in glazed green terracotta tiles, with copper gutters and cast iron leaders.

The westbound (to Montclair) platform was similar to the eastbound platform but extended only 824 feet long. Eleven bays long, the canopy was attached to the west facade of the shelter. Like the eastbound canopy, its wood frame hipped roof was supported on a single row of wood beam lintels with shaped ends and concrete Tuscan columns set in cast iron bases. The soffit was of matched boards with attached incandescent lighting fixtures, one to a bay and the roof was sheathed in glazed green terra cotta tile with copper gutters and cast iron leaders.

In September 1994, the interior of the station had been extensively damaged by several fires and water infiltration, and was therefore inaccessible, however, original drawings of both the original 1908 station and the expanded 1921 version have been reproduced on microfilm in New Jersey Transit archives in Newark, New Jersey.

The drawings of the original single story 1908 station indicate that the first floor had a large waiting room with five benches and a large newsstand that projected from the south wall. The ticket office and a women's room was located north of the waiting room. A passageway led to the baggage room and the smoking room through which the men's room was reached. Window and wall trim was marble and terra cotta. Floors in the public areas were terrazzo, white maple in the ticket office and newsstand, and granite in the baggage room.

The_original 1908 Ampere Station building was altered by the railroad in 1921 when the second story was added to accommodate the additional twelve foot height of the newly raised tracks. The alterations were skillfully conducted without compromise to the architectural integrity of the original Renaissance Revival structure.

The new second story platform level consisted of a large open waiting room with four passenger benches, a terrazzo floor and a newsstand on the east wall. At the first story, a large staircase with decorative cast iron balusters, a wood rail and a marble base was built at the south end of the former waiting room where the newsstand was formerly located. Columns were added to support the new second story and the waiting room benches were reduced in size. The ticket office and men's and women's rooms remained intact, but the smoking room was absorbed by an expanded baggage room. Seats from the smoking room were relocated to the new shelter across the tracks. The trackside entrance from the original first-story waiting room to the original grade level platform became the entrance to a concrete pedestrian tunnel (marked "subway" on the drawings) under the tracks which provided access to the westbound platform.

New second story windows were added to the west (main) facade and the 1908 station dedication tablet from the Crocker-Wheeler Company was reset in the new second level waiting room. Large round-arched windows were added to the north and south facades to provide additional light into the waiting room and a new front entrance marquis was added. Platforms and canopies were raised with the existing concrete columns raised and reset and concrete retaining walls were constructed at the perimeter of the platforms with concrete stairs at each end of each side of the platforms. Vault lights were imbedded into the concrete platforms to provide natural light into the new pedestrian tunnel.

The Renaissance Revival styling of the Ampere Station was relatively common among D. L. & W. r~ilroad stations in New Jersey of the early twentieth century, although most stations of this styk featured low, rectangular hipped roofs rather than the Ampere Station's gable roof with high end wall parapets. This deviation from the standard D. L. & W. station architecture may be attributed to the fact that the original 1908 station was raised to accommodate another story and the new raised platforms during the grade crossing elimination in 1921. For most of its suburban stations, the D. L & W. developed a fairly standardized design with repeated minor variations in scale, material and trim. Other D. L. & W. stations in New Jersey with generalized Renaissance Revival references include those at Highland A venue, Short Hills, Convent, Far Hills, Mountain, Chatham, and Morris Plains. The original 1908 Ampere Station had a fairly standard D. L. & W. plan with the waiting room and baggage room situated in two large end rooms separated by a ticket office, rest rooms, and a connecting central passageway. Ampere Station for the most part was similar to other classically detailed stations of the period, but was unique for its distinctive gable end coping and monumental concrete door surround.

When Ampere Station was demolished, it was in a deteriorated condition due to years of neglect and vandalism and a fire in 1992. The shelter and its associated westbound canopies had been demolished by 1986, leaving the cast iron bases of the columns embedded in the asphalt. The section of canopy that was in front of the station building's east (facing the platform) facade was demolished following a fire, leaving several of the concrete Tuscan columns toppled on the ground still connected to their iron bases with reinforcement bars.

Original architectural details that were m1ssmg included the classically-detailed entrance marquis, the incandescent torcheres with bronze brackets and globe lamps that flanked the main entrance and a freight scale under the portico at the south facade. In the 1980' s, all of the window and door openings were boarded when the station was closed by New Jersey Transit, but the concrete platforms, still in use at that time, were resurfaced with asphalt. Trash (including a broken organ and a television set) had been dumped at the porticoes and on the track side of the station. The terra cotta roof tiles of the north portico had been partially replaced by asphalt shingles and many of the roof tiles on the station building and on the canopies were damaged or missing exposing large sections of the canopy framing. Copper gutters and roof flashing had been stripped, wood brackets at the main facade eaves and much of the tongue-and-groove soffits of the porticoes and the canopies were missing or damaged.