Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A) Depot in NY

Union Station, Chatham New York
Date added: February 06, 2024 Categories:

The Chatham depot is a fine example of Richardsonian design applied to the firm formed by three of Richardson's disciples upon his death in early 1886. The Chatham Station which opened in 1887 was one of the new firm's early works.

Although the station was not one of the works Richardson had in progress when he died at the age of 47 his influence is readily evident in several respects. To begin with the Boston and Albany Railroad for which the Station was erected had been a regular client of Richardson's, as he designed nine structures for them between 1881 and 1886, several on the rural station scale.

Architecturally the Chatham Station is similar in design to Richardson's stations at Auburndale and Holyoke, Massachusetts, both built for Boston and Albany. The station with its extended waiting shelter combines Auburndale's long low silhouette with Holyoke's bolder roof design and fenestration.

Not only Richardsonian detail but his design philosophy is reflected in the Chatham Station. In his railway depots Richardson "strove first of all to clearly express the buildings purpose; to mark the fact that a station is not a house but a shelter, not a place to live in, so to say, but a place to wait under. The roof is the chief feature, not the walls. Those are always low and the plan as compact as possible. In no two cases are the designs alike but in all there is the same expression of temporary shelter as the main thing to be supplied together with a sturdy air of permanence."

Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge became a firm of note in their own right. Yet as they developed they moved away from Richardson's influence and exercise of leadership in architecture to the subordination of McKim, Mead and White. Before the transition occurred however the best work of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge in the late eighties developed those tendencies in the work of the last years of Richardson's life for which Shepley and Coolidge must have been responsible for in the first place.

Building Description

The Chatham Railroad Station is notable for its Richardsonian elements and bold appearance. It has thick stone walls and a massive slate roof. A one-story rectangle, the structure is covered by a bellcast hip roof, which overhangs the walls on all elevations and is supported by bracketed wooden posts. Parallel to the track on the southeast facade the overhang is extended to form a covered waiting platform with low profile hip roof.

Accenting the roof are four large dormers, one per elevation, and a brick chimney. On each of the two ends, the northeast and southwest facades, a gabled dormer is covered with shingles and has a large rounded arch window. More elaborate triangular dormers are centrally located on the southeast and northwest elevations. The light-colored stone dormers have five rectangular windows separated by columns and framed with dark-colored stone lintels and quoins.

Five heavy wooden doors are recessed in rectangular openings on the southeast and northwest elevations. Dark-colored stone lintels and quoins also frame the doorways. Simple fenestration is further accomplished by a single dark band of stone encompassing the building at the top of the first tier of stone which is oversized and flared in cut compared to successive layers.

A five-bay operators window centrally situated on the southeast facade, provides a commanding view of trackside operations. The structure's interior was originally divided into two waiting rooms, one for men and one for women. Walls are paneled with narrow tongue and groove siding.

Union Station, Chatham New York  (1973)

Union Station, Chatham New York  (1973)