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The Waldwick Railroad Station is one of the few extant frame terminals predating 1900 on the Erie Railroad line in New Jersey. Planned and built in 1887, the structure's Queen Anne style is representative of the small suburban railroad depots erected throughout the United States in the last quarter of the 19th century. In 1996, the Station was named to the National Registry of Historic Places as well as the New Jersey Registry of Historic Places.
The Waldwick Railroad Yard was a major facility from 1890 until around 1960. At its peak, approximately 50% of the households in Waldwick had at least one family member working for the railroad. Tied into the historical importance of the station, is the nearly renovated signal tower which is located approximately 1,000 feet north of the station. Together, these structures are wonderful representations of museums which commemorate the importance of the railroad and other industries and the effect it had on suburban growth in the area.
The building of the original Waldwick Railroad Station was the result of a grant of land by the then owner, Peter Bogert to the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad and the then residents of Orville Township raising $2,000 to build the station.
With the construction of its own station, businesses began to grow and prosper. A freight house was built. Italian immigrants flocked to the work in the newly constructed rail yard. Waldwick (Orville Township) was now on the map. And for the next century, the Waldwick Railroad Station was the center of it all. It was the location where countless parades passed, where people met, and where a monument was constructed by a local businessman commemorating residents who fought in our nation’s wars.
Over the years, the late 1800s to mid-1970s, railroad companies came into being and disappeared. From the DL&WRR, to the Erie, to the Erie Lackawanna, to Conrail, and finally to NJ Transit, railroads were never flush with cash and were either unwilling, or financially unable to maintain the station. As a result, the lack of maintenance to this old building was taking a serious toll. The foundations and sill plate were continuously exposed to ground water which caused the building to sink. The untreated façade and framework was exposed to the elements and over time, led to a station in very poor condition. Although the roof had gaping holes, many internal original features were still intact and in surprisingly good condition. By 1977, the station was shuttered, locked, and all but forgotten. By 2005, it appeared the station would be left for dead and lost forever.
Recognizing the station’s importance to the area, the newly formed Waldwick Community Alliance (WCA) appealed to NJ Transit to take part in the WCA community revitalization plan. The WCA felt that every property owner in the downtown area, public or private, should take it upon themselves to fix and maintain their own buildings as part of improving the community. Citing budgetary reasons, NJ Transit continued to refuse the WCA's requests. Having a historic building in their inventory meant nothing to NJ Transit and they continued to refuse to undertake even the most basic maintenance.
Because the station was now on both the national and state registers of historic places, New Jersey Transit (NJT) could not demolish it. But by refusing to make necessary repairs, it was the feeling of the WCA that NJT was essentially committing "demolition by neglect". Finally, after continually pressuring the railroad, NJT handed over control of the station to the WCA allowing them to fix the station for the railroad.
With a 25-year lease in place, the WCA set out on an ambitious and non-stop fundraising campaign. With matching historic preservation grants in place, work began to restore the historic Waldwick Railroad Station in 2011.
The WCA opened the doors of the station during many fundraising events so the public could see what a magnificent building the station really was and to promote support for its restoration. The restoration work took nearly 5 years and cost $600,000 to complete. Many members of the WCA contributed their time and talents to make the restored Station the magnificent structure that we see today.
The overall property surrounding the station is utilized as a parking lot for NJ Transit passengers.
As stated earlier the restored Waldwick Railroad Station is on the National and New Jersey Registries of Historic Places. The Station is not only a significant representation of Queen Anne architecture of the late 1800s. It also is serves as home to the Waldwick Museum of Local History where exhibits commemorate life in the late 19th and the early 20thcenturies and the impact the railroad has had on the Borough of Waldwick and the surrounding area. The Waldwick Community Alliance (WCA) has compiled a collection of hundreds of historical photographs and documents that are or will be on display. They have also obtained the original and still functioning freight scale from 1889, a section of the original iron fence that surrounded the yard, the original lighting fixtures that were installed in the 1920's, and hundreds of freight receipts dating between 1909‐1913. The WCA exhibits these historic artifacts along with others that are donated and collected.
The restored Waldwick Railroad Station provides an educational resource to residents, organizations, schools and rail fans by illustrating how rail operations were conducted; how different life was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how the station looked during its earliest years.
The WCA conducts tours of the facility and offers talks on the operation and role of the station. The restored Station takes what used to be a focal point of a borough and transforms it back to the centerpiece it once was. The WCA has already utilized the station as the site for multiple events and parades that have attracted thousands and will continue to make it the crown jewel of Waldwick. The WCA has also been contacted by other local and already operational railroad museum organizations to combine efforts to create an even larger, more appealing educational tour of local railroad facilities.
The public benefits from the completed restoration in several ways. The restored Waldwick Railroad Station not only preserves an excellent example of Queen Anne Style architecture, but it also creates a time capsule that the public may utilize to better understand life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It provides a brief history of the railroad and its effect on suburban growth and prosperity.
Now that the restoration is complete (memorial pavers are in the planning stages), this historic building can take its rightful place as the center piece that promotes community interaction, historical walking tours and downtown re‐development, located away from major vehicular traffic thoroughfare, in its own enclave. The restoration of this great Station reflects a major focus of federal, state, and local governments on New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Transit Oriented Development – which is the revitalization and densification of all existing cities and towns across America into walkable, mixed‐use communities, with pedestrians and bicycles given top priority over automobiles, and a serious focus on bicycles and trains as the major forms of transportation.
The museum is a tremendous educational resource for young and old alike, teaching about the birth of the borough, and telling its stories throughout the years. The Waldwick Museum of Local History is now part of the Northwest Bergen History Coalition and is in talks with the local Boards of Education to develop curricula for history students, with hopes of one day offering scholarships. As the museum grows, we intend on utilizing the station as the center of community outreach and most of all, to teach our local history.
Waldwick Railroad Station Characteristics
There are numerous character defining elements and features found on both the exterior and interior of the Waldwick Train Station.
Exterior late nineteenth century features:
· Cast or stamped iron cresting and crickets on roof ridges
· Elaborately corbelled brick chimney
· Cast iron vent pipe in roof of north extension
· Copper valleys and flashing
· Slate roofing
· Gables decorative trim work with king posts, curved pieces, and pendants
· Overhanging eaves with carved exposed rafter ends and carved and incised oversized brackets
· Wall surfacing of octagonal shaped wood shingles in the gables, dormers and upped ban that extends around the building under the projecting roof eaves. Much of the siding is formed by a combination of timber framing with vertical board and horizontal board panels.
· Queen Anne style windows in the dormer, transoms, and bathrooms.
· Diagonal paneling in the lower sections of attenuated, six‐panel doors.
· Six‐over double hung windows, with true divided light wood sash
· Decorative woodwork arranged along the fascia board
Interior late nineteenth century features are as follows:
· Wide fluted molding surrounding the doors and windows
· “Bullseye” blocks located in the upper left and right corners of the door moldings and all four corners of the window moldings
· The cast iron pot belly stove located in the middle of the waiting room
· A cast iron coal or wood stove in the station master’s office
· The vertical board wainscoting and wide fluted chair rail that extend around the interior of the waiting room, the station master’s office, the baggage room and the men’s and women’s rooms
· The 1” x 6” tongue and groove double beaded board horizontal wood wall surfaces in the waiting room, the station manager’s office, and the baggage room
· The 1” x 3” tongue and groove beaded board horizontal wood ceiling surfaces in the waiting room, the station manager’s office, the baggage room and the men’s and women’s rooms.
(A Community Family Album) 2019
The WCA and the Waldwick Museum of local presents it 5th exhibition since its opening May 20, 2016 in the restored historic Waldwick rail road station. The “Waldwick’s Centennial Celebration” exhibit covers a century of important stories and artifacts in the main room and northbound gallery. Train buffs will enjoy displays in the southbound gallery. This exhibit is specially designed to feel like a community family album to visitors. It opened to major raves by all ages on Centennial Day April 7, 2019. One can geek out on history, reminisce with “Then and Now” scenics and maps, peruse humorous old news articles, see town aerial views, and much more with an amazing miniature scale 1919 Waldwick centerpiece!
(Transportation Modes) 2018
The 2018 exhibit on display at the Waldwick Railroad Station Museum was entitled “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”. This exhibit featured 3 these three modes of transportation which were instrumental to the growth of New Jersey and Waldwick.
“Rail Riders”. Train enthusiasts enjoyed viewing models of trains and the famous “WYE” created by the Ramapo Valley Railroad Club. The ‘WYE” tracks were used to turn steam locomotives on track and return them down the Bergen County Line to Jersey City. Other rail road memorabilia, such as dining car place settings are also on display, as well as railroad lanterns, railroad mail artifacts that played an important role in the early days of railroading.
“Aviation Innovations”. The visitors learned about Aviation successes that occurred right here in New Jersey. Visitors discovered how surprisingly close to home the pioneers of the skies had come in this exhibit. Pictures of famous aviators such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart were on display for all to see. We had a four-foot model of a British double winged airplane hanging from the ceiling. This plane is a functional aircraft having participated in 17 flights prior to its being lent to the exhibit.
“We Auto be in Pictures!”. Was a colorful contemporary collaborative art project utilizing photos of vintage autos that participated in past Waldwick Car Shows. The show was presented in a striking visual way in the museum’s north gallery. We had over 500 guests view this exhibit.
(Making an American Dream) 2017
The Journey from Italy to Waldwick.
The Immigrant Experience exhibit showed how Italian immigrants left their family, and friends and most of their possessions for many reasons. Some were fleeing war, disease, and famine, while others were drawn to the offers of opportunity, jobs, inexpensive land, and religious freedom. During the late 1800s and early 1900s immigrants of like nationality often settled in the same small area in the new land. Waldwick was no exception as it was home to an enclave of Italian immigrants. Many of the artifacts that were on display were loaned to us by today’s Italian American citizens of Waldwick.
This exhibit was visited by a Librarian from the Ellis Island Bob Hope Library of the U.S. Parks Department who praised our exhibit and suggested that we think about putting this exhibit on display at Ellis Island.
(Garment Industries) 2016
The “Thread Through Time” Exhibit examined the role the textile industry played in the growth of Waldwick and surrounding towns during the late 1800s and early 1900s and its relationship to the silk mills located in Paterson and the Rosencrantz mill which was in Ho-Ho-Kus. Actual Victorian dresses were also put on display to augment our display cases and story boards. We entertained over 400 guests for this exhibit.
The “Restored Historic Railroad Station” was opened on May 22, 2016. As it was so
close to Memorial Day of that year (May 29, 2016), the Waldwick Community Alliance’s
first exhibit included a section dedicated to Waldwick servicemen who served their
country in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the War in Iraq and the War in
Afghanistan. The first exhibit also included a section on important personages from
Waldwick’s historical past like James Orville and Julia A. Traphagen. As the Waldwick
Museum of Local History is housed in the restored Waldwick Railroad station, it was
also appropriate that the first exhibit include a section on railroad memorabilia.
“Honoring Our Veterans”
“Local Train Lore” (Station Master’s Office)
Congressman, Josh Gottheimer stopped in and enjoyed with his family.
Exhibit board was displayed at WHS Grad Ball, Parents’ Ball
Veterans and American Legion Women’s Auxiliary enjoyed the Centennial Exhibit reception at the Waldwick Museum of Local History with a special salute to the 75th Anniversary of D-Day with the display of Waldwick’s WW2 Parachute wedding gown.
Ellis Island historian Jeffrey Dosik gives lecture at Waldwick Museum of Local History’s lecture hall at VFW-WCA building during The Immigrants Experience.
Vintage folk music band,” Il Quartetto”, gives free concert at the Waldwick Museum of Local History’s trackside court.
American Labor Museum is impressed with The Immigrants’ Experience at Waldwick Museum of Local History.