Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
Traveling by train is regarded by many as a great way to travel. There are several hundred train stations listed on the National Register of Historic Places (National Archives Identifier 20812721). The gentleman and his wife, pictured above, traveled frequently by train, and later became the first president to travel by airplane on official business. The railroad station in Hyde Park, New York (New York SP Hyde Park Railroad Station – National Archives Identifier 75317378) was certainly used frequently by Franklin Roosevelt during his time as Governor of New York and later as President of the United States. The station “is located between River Road and the Hudson River Railroad line west of the village of Hyde Park in the town of Hyde Park, Dutchess County. Commanding an expansive view of the Hudson River at the mouth of Crum Elbow Creek, the structure is a prominent feature on the local landscape . . . When the Hyde Park Railroad Station was built in 1914, the Mission style was gaining acceptance within academic architectural circles. The Panama-Pacific Exposition, which opened in California in the same year, brought features of this revival Spanish settlement style into general popularity. Noted for its tile roofs, decorative exposed rafters (both inside and outside), brick and stucco construction, and terra cotta details, the Mission style is well represented in the Hyde Park structure.” The significance of the Hyde Park station is tied to the town’s most famous resident, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a distinct impact on life in the Hudson Valley, particularly in his home county of Dutchess. As a state and national political figure, Roosevelt received many visiting dignitaries at his family home in Hyde Park. The travellers debarking at Hyde Park include Sir Winston Churchill and King George and Queen Mary of England.”
In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, adjacent to the Pennsylvania SP Gettysburg National Military Park (National Archives Identifier 71995661) is the restored train station seen above, where President Lincoln arrived to deliver the Gettysburg Address. The station is part of the Pennsylvania SP Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District (National Archives Identifier 71995645) and was “Originally a two story, brick, classical structure, the train station was given Italianate embellishments in the l880’s or 1890’s. The building now features a heavy bracketed cornice and bracketed wood trim on the cupola.”
In Delaware, a popular attraction are the Winterthur Museum and Gardens (National Archives Identifier 75324265), home to several generations of the DuPont family. The “property was acquired in 1837 by James Antoine and Evelina Gabrielle du Pont Bidermann, the daughter of Eleuthere and Irenee du Pont, founder of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Their purchase totaled 450 acres on which they built a home in 1839. This was the original house at Winterthur, which was named for the Swiss city in which Mr. Bidermann’s family had lived.” When Henry Francis DuPont “died in 1969, all of his personal real estate at Winterthur – the gardens, farm, and attendant buildings – were inherited by The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc. The total acreage is now 962, Mr. Du Pont having disposed of land at the perimeter of the estate to such organizations as the Methodist Country House, the Wilmington Country Club, and the Delaware Museum of Natural History as future protection to the Museum and Gardens.”
In New York City, there are two major train transportation hubs – Pennsylvania Station (located under Madison Square Garden and the Grand Central Terminal (National Archives Identifier 75319560), under the MetLife building and Park Avenue. “Grand Central Station, as it was originally built and now stands, represents the combined ideas of a number of people. When, to comply with new safety restrictions, the New York Central Railroad electrified its lines into New York City, vast changes were required in the subterranean track system. William K. Vanderbilt, then Chairman of the New York Central Corporation, felt that a new terminal should be built, replacing the old passenger depot . . . The Grand Concourse within the station is one of the most justifiably famous interiors in the United States, it is a room of vast size, with its upper walls pierced by clerestory windows which, at certain times of day, admit great beams of sunlight. The great arched ceiling, painted by the French artist Paul Helleu, represents a dark blue sky containing the constellations of the firmament . . . The new terminal with its underground tracks helped to accelerate the growth of Park Avenue as a fashionable residential district for wealthy businessmen who wished to maintain apartments in the city.”
In Point of Rocks, Maryland, in Frederick County, you can visit the Point of Rocks Railroad Station, “located south of US 15 and north of the Baltimore & Ohio / Chesapeake & Ohio tracks on the north bank of the Potomac River at Point of Rocks, Maryland. The Gothic Revival station is vaguely triangular in shape with a four story tower on the apex and a one-and-one-half story wing at the base. The central two-and-one-half story section forms the main block of the station . . . The proportion, detailing, and color of the Point of Rocks Railroad Station is unusually sophisticated for its rural setting and ranks with the most outstanding work of the Victorian Gothic Revival. The polychrome effect produced by the combination of brick, granite, and sandstone is reminiscent of earlier work in England by architects like William Butterfield . . . Historically, the station is located in a significant site. In the 1830’s both the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal were constructing their respective routes west to the Ohio River. The railroad and the canal both chose a narrow strip of land between the Potomac River and the Catoctin Mountains from Point of Rocks westward. The conflict led to an involved suit in the Maryland Court of Appeals. The issue was resolved by allowing both the canal and the railroad to share the narrow strip of land. The Station marks the juncture of the metropolitan branch of the B&O which follows the Potomac valley to Washington with the main branch which extends from Baltimore to the Middle West.”
Traveling by train was very popular with Presidents, who could visit several towns in one day and reach many potential voters. These “whistle stop” campaigns are still an effective way to campaign, as seen below, with President Gerald Ford speaking at the Alexandria Railway station in Alexandria, Virginia. The Virginia SP Alexandria Historic District (National Archives Identifier 41679422) features “excellent rail connections to both north and south, [which led to] Alexandria became an important industrial and commercial center in Northern Virginia. In fact, the Potomac yards were the largest classification railway yards in the country at the turn of the century. As a result of this transportation system, Alexandria developed a large industrial center along its waterfront adjacent to the railway. The list of industrial enterprises in Alexandria during the early 20th century is rather lengthy, including large lumber yards, leather and shoe factories, coal wharves, ice factories, a brewery, glass works, a tile manufactory, and a gas works. This combination of industrial vitality and excellent transportation facilities led Henry Ford to build a plant along the Alexandria waterfront.”
Go ahead and grab your ticket to ride and I’ll meet you under the clock at Grand Central for our train adventure!
This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.