buffalo’s central terminal
I have long been fascinated with abandoned buildings and ruins; I find that they serve to connect one with a specific period in the life of the structure in an impactful way. Rather than the edifice progressing and adapting through generations, an abandoned building, although decaying, almost provides a snapshot in time at the moment it ceased to exist for the purpose it was built. A few years ago I happened upon the web site Infiltration which chronicles through (sometimes illicitly snapped) photos of many spaces and structures in which the general public no longer traverses. One such building that captivated me while wandering the site is Buffalo, New York’s Central Terminal.
The railroad industry in Buffalo was in its prime during the era of World War II. Never before had there been the amount of traffic generated by the war effort and, because of its location, Buffalo was one of the largest rail centres in the world. In the 1950s census, Buffalo was ranked as the second largest rail centre in the United States, second only to Chicago.
The New York Central Railroad Company’s Central Terminal opened in the summer of 1929, but was almost always too large for the services required. Although it started with 200 trains daily, the Great Depression and the rise in automobile usage impacted passenger levels. Expectedly, the station experienced a resurgence during World War II, but after the war, the station again entered into decline.
The terminal closed in 1979, after which the station suffered years of neglect as the property changed hands until the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation acquired it in 1997, with the goal to restore the property. After the removal of 250 tons of debris, asbestos, and other repairs, the terminal opened for tours in 2003. The tours focus on the exterior and main hall of the terminal. The general public is not allowed in the floors of the tower, or other areas of the main hall. This is for the public’s safety, as pieces of the building are still actively crumbling.
One day while shopping in Buffalo, I finally paid a visit to this amazing structure that is easily seen in the distance from the I90 highway, as it soars above all other structures in the vicinity. As my photos attest, the restoration is a slow process, dragging on due to high costs and the massive amount work needed on this massive structure. But capturing the character of the building at this point in time helps one to appreciate, albeit with melancholy, what a grand place it once was and perhaps one day may be again.