Vacant train station in New York

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York
Date added: February 28, 2023 Categories:
Southwest main facade of building looking east (1987)

Built in 1911 to replace the original depot (ca. 1853), the present depot reflects the continued importance of the railroad industry in Wellsville. Since its advent in Wellsville in 1851, the railroad played a pivotal role in the growth and prosperity of the village as a regional center of rail transportation. The 1911 depot recalls the heyday of the rail era in Wellsville and its relatively high level of architectural distinction illustrates the pride and wealth possessed by the railroad company and the local citizens and businessmen who sponsored its construction.

The emergence of railroad passenger depots and freight stations as distinct building types obviously coincided with the advent of widespread rail transportation during the mid-nineteenth century. Because there were no precedents for determining form, scale, style and/or method of construction for this new building type, a variety of experimental depots and stations appeared in the Northeast between the 1830s and 1860s. Among the earliest, most prominent and most monumental were the Moorish/Oriental style station in New Haven, Ct. by Henry Austin (ca. 1848-49), the Romanesque Revival style Union Passenger Depot in Providence R.I. by Thomas Tefft (ca. 1848) and the lavish Second Empire-style Grand Central Depot in New York City by Snook & Buckhout (ca. 1869-71).

The Wellsville Erie Depot is an example of early twentieth-century passenger depot design, embodying the distinctive characteristics of the type. It is distinguished by a high degree of integrity of design and materials. The variety of superior quality materials and finely crafted exterior and interior detailing distinguish the building as an outstanding example of its type and period in the region and as a prominent local landmark and source of pride for the community.

The building is characterized by low horizontal massing surmounted by a low-pitched hipped roof with broadly projecting eaves. In terms of style, the building displays an eclectic blend of features commonly associated with the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne styles. The broad, Romanesque-inspired round arches lend a dignified and monumental quality to the depot while the Picturesque tile-clad roof and decorative brackets enliven the overall severity and regularity of the building. In terms of materials, the depot displays fine terra-cotta tiles, bricks laid in common bond and joined with red-tinted mortar, finely crafted stone and brick trim on the exterior and well-appointed oak woodwork on the interior. The interior division of space is also characteristic of the type: the utilitarian, yet comfortable and pleasant, main waiting room occupies the center of the main block with the ticket office, ladies' waiting room, smoking room and restroom facilities located in secondary spaces. The interior fabric of the building, although recently slightly deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, survives substantially intact. Finely crafted oak wainscoting, built-in benches, chair rails and molded trim around arches and door and window openings survive intact throughout the depot.

Erected in 1911, the Wellsville Erie Depot is an important reminder of the continued growth and prosperity of the community more than two centuries after its settlement. Nathaniel Dike, A Yale graduate who had served on General Washington's staff, came to what would become the town of Wellsville from Connecticut in 1795. He was the first permanent white settler in the town and in Allegeny County, which was named after the Allegwei Indians, an ancient local tribe. Four years before Dike's arrival, on May 11th, 1791, Robert Morris, a financier, bought a 3,750,000-acre tract of land, which encompassed the present boundaries of the town of Wellsville, from Massachusetts for $333,000. He subsequently sold portions in 1792 and 1793, keeping the eastern section, a strip of land six miles wide that extended through the state from north to south, known as the "Morris Reserve."

The town of Wellsville was officially established on November 22nd, 1855, comprising 22,647 acres from the towns of Andover, Willing and a major portion of Scio. Wellsville was named for Gardner Wells who built the first frame house in the area in 1833. During the early decades of the nineteenth century, the heavily timbered area was virtually an outpost with a few settlers. The coming of the New York and Erie Railroad in 1851 and the construction of the line, beginning with the initial surveying in 1838 and 1849, opened up the desolate wilderness in Western New York and Wellsville prospered and grew.

The first wood-fueled locomotive and passenger train passed through the village of Wellsville on February 12th, 1851, and by May 14th, 1851, the line was completed to Dunkirk, and a formal opening was held.

It was such an important event that President Fillmore and members of his cabinet, including Daniel Webster, the secretary of state, and New York State's governor rode on the celebrated train. At the station there was great rejoicing and speech making by the guests. People gathered from all over the region those who had come to cut down the forests and make their fortunes and the new arrivals who had come to help build the railroad.

For the remainder of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the railroad business boomed and Wellsville received other lines including the Wellsville, Coudersport and Pine Creek Railroad (chartered 1881), the Bradford, Eldred and Cuba Railroad (chartered 1881), the Buffalo and Susquehanna (chartered 1902), and the Genesee Railroad (chartered 1910). These lines, established on both north/south and east/west routes through the village, developed because of Wellsville's position as a shipping point for the southern as well as the western country in the region.

The lumber industry, which had played an important role in the development of the area before the railroad, grew tremendously as shipping facilities expanded. Tanneries flourished as an outgrowth of the lumber industry. The first large-scale tannery was founded by Bush and Howard of Buffalo in 1858. The next industry to prosper was the oil business. The Seneca Oil Spring, located on the one-mile-square Oil Spring Indian Reservation on the Cattaraugus/Allegany county line near the village of Cuba, continued to play an important role in the local economy for many years.

Colonel Edward Drake, the "Father of the Allegany Field," and a resident of Wellsville, drilled a successful well at Petrolia in the Town of Scio on July 12th, 1879. The boom started in 1880, lasting till 1892 with Wellsville businessmen drilling in Alma and Scio. There were hundreds of small wells which produced over a long period of time. The Standard Oil Company pumped oil from a station established in 1883, sending it to a refinery in New Jersey. However, Wellsville's prosperity was more directly linked to the Sinclair Refining Company which built the largest refinery in the world in the area, a facility that covered over 100 acres.

The new Wellsville depot, which replaced the existing depot (ca. 1853) located at Central Place and Loder Streets, was constructed in 1911. The station came to be built partially because of pressure exerted by the Wellsville Businessmen's Association. Mr. L.H. Thornton, the organization's president, exacted a promise for the new facility from the Erie Company's president, Underwood. The site for the new depot was purchased in 1910 at a cost of $5,500, and a $16,000 building was constructed by contractor William Henley of Bradford, Pennsylvania. The total cost of the new station is estimated to have been $35,000.

Building Description

The Wellsville Erie Depot, constructed in 1911, is located in the village of Wellsville, Allegany County, in the southwest portion of New York State. Situated approximately 15 miles north of the Pennsylvania border in the town of Wellsville, the village was formed along the banks of the Genesee River, a major waterway which runs north of the village center, parallel to Main Street.

Built on a 72' x 271' rectangular lot (Number 47.2; less than one acre) the depot faces south on Depot Street. Located one block northeast of the village's central business district (Main Street) and one block southwest of the community's primary residential enclaves, the parcel is bounded on the northeast by the railroad tracks of the Consolidated Railroad Corporation (formerly the New York and Erie Railroad), on the northwest by Pearl Street and on the southeast by Jefferson Street.

The depot is surrounded on the northwest, southwest and southeast by commercial and civic buildings. The depot is surrounded by brick-paved parking lots.

The red brick building, embellished with tooled Warsaw bluestone trim, shows the influence of both the Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styles popular in America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The one-story, seven-bay depot, 132 feet long and 33 feet deep, is symmetrical in plan with a center three-bay rectangular block and flanking two-bay rectangular wings. The building sits on a rectangular concrete platform on a beveled bluestone sill base.

The symmetrical main facade, oriented southwest, consists of seven bays delineated by Syrian-arched window and door openings. The arches spring from a tooled bluestone watertable which encircles the entire building. The depot is covered with a large, terra-cotta tile-clad hipped roof with wide, overhanging flared eaves supported by simple wooden brackets. The building's northeast facade, which faces the railroad track, is identical to the main elevation except for a protruding rectangular bay at the northwest end. The one-bay-wide side elevations (northwest and southwest) feature segmentally arched casement windows with wooden trim.

The quality of the depot's masonry work is noteworthy. The exterior hard brick walls are fashioned in common (header) bond with fine joints of tinted red mortar. Brick is used ornamentally as well as structurally; for example, the building's corners are accentuated by raised bricks fashioned to imitate quoins. The Syrian arches, which serve as surrounds for door and window openings, are composed of archivolts made with brick stretchers in the intrados and two rows of corbelled brick headers in the extrados.

Fenestration is regular and symmetrical with a variety of window and door openings. The main facade contains three tripartite round-arched window openings with one-over-one double-hung sash. Four of the building's arched openings, located in the flanking wings of the structure, contain wooden sliding doors paneled with diagonal siding. Rectangular paneled doors with segmentally arched transoms are located in each flanking wing in the northeast and southwest elevations. The depot's office contains segmentally arched nine-over-nine and six-over-six double hung wooden sash windows.

The general waiting room, 33' x 36', is located in the center of the rectangular main block. The walls and cove ceiling are made of painted plaster, as they are throughout the facility. The lower portions of the walls are delineated by chair rails and wainscoting. The interior wooden moldings, found around windows, doors, baseboards and arches, are made of oak and are intact. A lobby and ticket office are situated at the building's northwest end, next to the general waiting room, and the baggage room is located in the outer portion of the northwest end of the building.

Southeast of the general waiting room is a ladies' waiting room, a smoking room and restroom facilities. At the extreme southeast end of the building is the express office. The depot contains a hot water heating system and electrical lighting.

The interior of the depot is virtually intact with no major alterations. Some deterioration, primarily water damage, is evident due to the fact that the facility has been vacant for several years and needs basic maintenance. The depot is currently privately owned and is slated for restoration and adaptive reuse.

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Southwest main facade of building looking east (1987)
Southwest main facade of building looking east (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Southwest main facade of building looking north (1987)
Southwest main facade of building looking north (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Depot from north looking south across the tracks (1987)
Depot from north looking south across the tracks (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Depot looking southeast (1987)
Depot looking southeast (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Rear entrance to waiting room leading to platform looking from waiting room (1987)
Rear entrance to waiting room leading to platform looking from waiting room (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York North entry alcove northwest corner mail room window and ticket window from waiting room (1987)
North entry alcove northwest corner mail room window and ticket window from waiting room (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Door to the station master's office on east side of terminal (1987)
Door to the station master's office on east side of terminal (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Ticket window from waiting room (1987)
Ticket window from waiting room (1987)

Wellsville Erie Depot, Wellsville New York Door to the baggage room and mail room from inside communications room (1987)
Door to the baggage room and mail room from inside communications room (1987)