Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

July 12, 2014

NIAGARA DISCOVERIES: Union Station was an architectural gem

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — In the late 19th century, in the years before the automobile, train travel was the fastest way to get from one place to another. It didn’t matter if you were going across the country or the county, you could get there on a train. Railroads were also big business, being owned by the captains of industry such as the Vanderbilts and the Goulds. Train stations in most major cities embraced the opulence of the families who owned the railroads they served.

In the late 1880s Lockport was still a busy stop on the Erie Canal and a hub for train traffic. The New York Central Railroad, owned by the Vanderbilts, decided that Lockport’s train station should reflect its importance as a major city.

Incorrectly attributed to architect Stanford White, the Richardson Romanesque building was actually designed by John D. Fouquet. Construction began in 1888 and the station was opened to the public in late 1889. Immediately, it became a gathering place for Lockportians who commuted to Buffalo or Niagara Falls for work.

In its heyday, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 10 passenger trains a day passed through the station. The station served both commuter and long-distance lines. Today, many older people still have fond memories of the old station. By the 1940s, however, train travel was declining in favor of the automobile and the New York Central closed the station. 

The 1950s and 1960s saw the station abandoned and vandalized. Broken windows and falling brick and stone caused a hazard to those who ventured near the derelict building. Finally, in 1967, Union Station was purchased by John Saraf Jr. for $13,000. Saraf saw potential in the structure and decided to turn it into a restaurant. Despite his efforts at restoration, he could not get the project off the ground. This is when David H. Goldstein entered the picture. 

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