From Trash to Treasure: The New York Central Railroad Terminal in Syracuse, NY

NY Rail Road Terminal in SyracuseDecades ago, in 1936, an imposing building was opened in a grand ceremony in the City of Syracuse, New York. This was the massive, Art Deco-styled New York Central Railroad Terminal, built along what had been the banks of the Erie Canal 30 years previously.

The building’s granite structure was grand and austere, much in the same genre of the nearby New York State Fair buildings on the Onondaga Lakeshore, which were built around the same time. (I’ll write about the State Fair buildings another time.) Also in the downtown Syracuse pantheon of architecture was (and still is) the powerful, superlative example of Art Deco style, the Niagara Mohawk building. But the railroad terminal was a little more utilitarian than the Gas & Electric Company’s edifice.

For many years, Syracusans departed and arrived on the trains that pulled into the Train Station. Eventually, the train schedules stopped running so frequently. A huge switching/shipping yard was built on the outskirts of town. A very small 1970’s style depot was erected near there, and the regal Terminal in the increasingly-seedy downtown was sold to the Greyhound Bus Company.

As a young college student, I often took the Greyhound back and forth to school, and never really appreciated the Terminal, for it had been distorted by the trappings of “modern” bus use. Linoleum and Formica replaced marble and granite. An unsightly overhanging shelter defaced the lovely entrance of the old building.

Finally, in 1998, Greyhound departed Syracuse, and the building was placed on the market. It acquired an impressive amount of pigeon droppings, but little interest from prospective buyers.

Enter Time Warner, our local cable company, in 2002. In spite of the dropped ceiling which obscured a 28-foot height, in spite of the bird droppings, the latent beauty of the place (and undoubtedly, the eagerness of the sellers) convinced the company that this building could be restored to beauty and usefulness.

Today, the building truly is transformed, from trash to treasure. Its magnificent facade facing Erie Boulevard is restored to reveal the geometric carvings and designs so beloved by Art Deco architects. A carved relief over the doors of a locomotive commemorates the founding of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad in 1831 and the terminal’s erection in 1936.

Inside, Time Warner has built a state-of-the-art TV studio from which it will begin broadcasting a 24-hour local news channel. The dropped ceilings were removed and the intricate ceiling panels restored.

One thought on “From Trash to Treasure: The New York Central Railroad Terminal in Syracuse, NY

  1. I grew up on burnet ave in back of the train station. I am 73 years old. My parents owned a bar right on burnet ave by the burnet ave side of the Station. The bar was named The depot grille, Track 14. There was only 13 tracks in the depot, so my father being the businessman that He was thought that the name would draw the train people, and it sure did. The place was packed every day and night. I would have to run thru the back of the train station where they were loading and unloading the baggage to get change. So there was a kid running through the baggage room with money in her hand to buy change.
    The steps coming down to the Burnet Ave side of the station( the station ran front, Erie Blvd. to back, Burnet Ave, you could go straight thru.) were beautiful granite,I thought they were made of stars.

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