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Pawtucket-Central Falls Train Station


More history of the two stations made into one: sites.google.com/site/pawtucketcentralfalls/home/the-separate-stations
UP Forum Thread: www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=8301


Train station spared as part of store deal

March 21, 2007
By John Castellucci | Journal Staff Writer

A compromise has been reached that will allow a CVS drugstore to be built without tearing down part of the Pawtucket-Central Falls train station. The compromise will leave the historic train station “intact and undisturbed,” said Oscar W. Seelbinder, the drugstore’s developer.

It involves abandoning part of Broad Street and using the land to provide parking for the drugstore, which is being developed on the Central Falls side of the 3.4-acre site. The compromise announced yesterday still requires the approval of the Pawtucket City Council and the Central Falls Zoning Commission.

Nevertheless, the mayors of both cities hailed the agreement, which breaks the deadlock that arose in December, when Seelbinder began razing part of the train station, and Pawtucket city officials obtained a court order forcing him to stop.

Mayor James E. Doyle said the key to the compromise was getting CVS officials involved in negotiations between his administration, the developer and the City of Central Falls. “Our goal from the beginning was SOS — Save Our Station. And it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ ” Doyle said.

Central Falls Mayor Charles D. Moreau said he hopes the compromise will restore the train station as a bustling transportation hub and eliminate an eyesore that has existed for 47 years.

In 1972, when the Penn Central Railroad went bankrupt, the late Albert J. Vitali Jr. and a partner purchased the property. Six years later, they announced a major redevelopment of the site. But the so-called Metro Towers project never went forward. Vitali used the station building to house a flea market. By 2005, when Seelbinder bought it from Vitali’s widow, Jean, the building was a ruin.

Seelbinder has said repeatedly he supports the plans to restore commuter rail service to the site. But his drugstore proposal initially involved tearing down the northwest wing of the train station and removing part of the façade.

The proposal had the support of the Moreau administration in Central Falls, which saw the drugstore as a boost to the neighborhood and a much-needed source of tax revenue. But Pawtucket city officials, historic preservationists and the influential Pawtucket Foundation were up in arms. Efforts were made to work out a compromise. They weren’t productive until Doyle got Governor Carcieri to contact Thomas Ryan, chief executive of the drugstore chain, and persuade him to intervene.

In December, two CVS officials, Dino M. DeThomas and Robert Nault, met with Doyle in his City Hall office. By mid-January, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, an engineering company hired by CVS, had developed the broad outlines of the plan to save the train station by narrowing Broad Street and using the land to provide parking for CVS. The new 12,000-square-foot pharmacy is expected to open early next year.


Built by the New York / New Haven / Hartford railroads in 1915. A two-level, state-of-the-art facility that was used by about 70,000 people per month in the late 1940s until 1959 when the station was closed. In the 1980s, the Depot Flea Market operated in the building.

Bernie Jun 16 2015 We used to walk by the station on way the from our home on Broad street in Valley Falls going to the Leroy Theater back in in the mid 60s. It would be great to find photos of it when it was in use, I’ve never seen any.

Paula Campos Oct 17 2013 I used to live right across the street from this station back in 1978-1979 to the mid 80s. I remember it when it was a flea market and when trains use to pass there. After everything shut down it got very depressing to look at. Very bleak and sad. I wish they would restore this station once and for all.

David H Dec 7 2012 My dad owned Pawtucket Gardens from 1970 thru early 80s. He leased the Pawtucket train station (entire bldg). It was always loaded with customers buying everything from garden tractors and fertilizer to christmas trees. The architecture, although much was in ruin even then, was still telling the story of grander times in Pawtucket. What was once marble on the walls and ceilings had fallen in piles on the marble floors. I learned how to skateboard in the long hallways of that building and have many fond memories helping my dad as a kid.

Amy Nov 11 2012 Mike P. - I’m sure Al Vitali doesn’t mind about the project being that he passed 12 years ago... It’s clear from the article... “In 1972, when the Penn Central Railroad went bankrupt, the late Albert J. Vitali Jr. and a partner purchased the property. Six years later, they announced a major redevelopment of the site. But the so-called Metro Towers project never went forward. Vitali used the station building to house a flea market. By 2005, when Seelbinder bought it from Vitali’s widow, Jean, the building was a ruin.”

Ronni Sep 28 2012 I grew up on East Avenue and went to college in Boston 1964-8. I distinctly remember taking trains from South Station, Boston and being able to get off in Pawtucket at least some of that time. There was no functioning station by then, just the below grade platform. I have no idea how I got back up to the street. It was definitely kind of creepy but it was also definitely later than 1959.

Claire Davenport Jun 5 2011 As a child, my mother used to take us on the train to the city of Providence to shop. I believe the tickets cost ten cents. We loved it.

Joe B Aug 24 2009 Why didn’t the city apply for any of the Federal stimulis money to do this project? Do they still care about this project? I would think that there are so many plans available for this project that they could have submitted something. Funding isn’t a sure bet, but at least the city should pretend to care about it.

Daniel April 11 2008 Are there any updates as of April 2008? In so many ways reopening this station could be a boon to Pawtucket, Central Falls and so many people. More food for thought. (1) We are likely to see a major contraction of populations from the exurbs and outer suburbs back to the inner suburbs and cities, due to the housing bust, the resultant recession, and especially energy prices. To illustrate, a family that bought a McMansion in Burrillville or some such place, are paying to heat a flimsy 3000 sq ft house, and trying to commute to/from the sticks won’t be able to afford it; they will sell out and move closer (or into) a city. Pawtucket and CF are primed to swell as a result (IMO). A revived P/CF train station would be PERFECT for the economy and social health of both towns. (2) Preservation lovers, who are mostly true-blue liberals, are not going to like the resulting social impact: gentrification. Perhaps not an absolute spike (think, Boston’s South End) but significant. Central Falls could look completely different a decade after the train station reopens. Both cities should be prepared with low-income housing initiatives, etc. Providence has not (IMO again) gentrified in the same way that Boston has. What I saw in Boston was low-income, minority populations getting pushed out of inner-city neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain and winding up in newly ghettoized fringe cities like Brockton and Lowell. (3) It is worth this risk to see two wonderful cities become revitalized. Mayor, keep on pursuing this! Liberals, keep on supporting it! Crazy evangelical Christians (like me), let’s figure out how we can best pursue the good of the city we are in - its rich and poor alike!

lou brierley Coming back from the Boys Club a kid couldln’t go by the train station to 1) check out to see if any coins were left in the telephone change unit, and 2) sneak under the stalls in the men’s room. It was always a thrill just to walk down that wonderful staircase into that huge seating area.

Aidan I was just wondering if anyone knew anything about the pocket watch on the wall... that image has stuck in my mind, such a neat thing.

LiLi I have my grandparents wedding picture (circa 1920), a family heirloom, hanging on my wall. The picture was taken on their wedding day at the Pawtucket train station in front of one of the glorious stained glass windows in the station. My grandmother used to tell the story of how all the brides would have their pictures taken at the train station because of the regal nature of the station\'s architecture. This is a building with a history. It holds the stories of many, many people. We need to save this building and perhaps secure a space within it to tell the stories of all those travelers and hometown people to whom the building was a source of hope, freedom, security... well that is what the stories would share with this and future generations. Save the Station!!

Joe R. Give me a break, we need another CVS like we need another Dukin Donuts. They should make it into a train station again and bring it back to its original glory. It drives me crazy that everywhere you look in New England its all CVS and Dunkin Donuts. Lets build something that might bring Central Falls back to life. And reading Urb’s comment, you dont like us “Sentimental preservationists” because your taxes are going to go up. If you dont like it, simply move.

Mike P Urb, fifteen trains a day pass through there. Keep in mind that both MBTA and Pawtucket want a station built, whether or not it’s in that building, but if the building goes, so does the federal funding earmarked for the station.

Urb Today’s Pawtucket Times has an update on this issue. I’d have to agree that it’s a nice-looking old building – but from the Times article, it would cost upwards of $100,000,000 to reactivate it as an MBTA commuter rail station – and for what, a couple of trains that would stop there each day? Sentimental preservationists love to wax nostalgic, as long as someone else is paying the bill to save old buildings like this one.

Leo King My earliest memory of the Pawtucket-Central Fall Station comes from when I was a child. I was always crazy about trains, and watching the New York, New Haven & Hartford – Amtrak’s predecessor – was always a joy. First, there were steam engines, then diesel-drawn passenger trains.
   The New Haven’s Boston locals would zip through the station, but a few would stop. Later, Budd card replaced the trains drawn by America Locomotive Co. (Alco) DL-109 engines.
   I got a ticket to ride one day from Providence to Pawtucket, just to ride the train and take a few pictures. It turns out I got onto a Worcester-bound train (yes, passenger trains ran daily to the Bay State city then) but would not make a Pawtucket stop. It was only a four-minute ride, and when I told the conductor I needed to get off there, he was really irked and that’s putting it mildly. He pulled the train line communication cord, which set off a while in the engineer’s cab, to stop at the next station. The train made a rapid deceleration, I got off on the platform, and off they went. I suppose the lost between 30 seconds and a minute from their schedule.
   The station was in decrepit condition then, although, I believe, tickets were still sold inside. That station, even tough it is mostly derelict now, CAN come back from the dead. I offer Worcester’s restored station as an example. In the 1970s, I happened upon the station and looked inside. It looked as bad if not even worse as Pawtucket’s station does today. There IS hope.

Tracy  For a short time in the late 1980’s this bldg housed a flea market. The inside was intact enough that you could tell how gorgeous it was once upon a time. My father and I snooped around a bit and it looked as if it had some short lived reincarnations because you could see where newer walls had been put and doorways had been boarded up. I would love to see this bldg. restored but I feel like they have been talking about it for 20 years.

JIMBEAR 1.) Amtrak trains on The Northeast Corridor have been electric for years now, therefore their movements are confined to the two electrified tracks passing under the station. 2.) The third set of tracks under the station belongs to the Providence & Worcester Railroad. The tracks were indeed “lowered” in order to provide additional clearance under the station to allow for very tall tri-level autorack cars which will carry imported vehicles from the piers at Quonset Point/Davisville to Worcester and then onto the Midwest and Canada. A new stretch of track, involving many new bridges, has been laid from Davisville to just west of the Amtrak station in Downtown Providence to allow the Providence & Worcester to operate their freight trains with minimal interference to Amtrak/MBTA operations in the area. The so-called “Third Rail Project” has been common knowledge for many years and was even financed by a bond issue approved by the state’s voters in a public referendum.

Mike P I spoke with engineers taking noise readings at the site a few weeks ago; they are conducting a feasibility study for rehabbing the station. MBTA wants the building to be a train station again. Not sure if Albo Vitale agrees, or if he even still owns the property.

Anthony P I wish they would turn the station back to its existing way many years ago. Its a nice bldg and it would tear two good towns apart if they tore it down. A long time ago i heard that it used to be a wonderful place to go to when it was open. Save the bldg and our streets.

Jeff A Looking at these pictures prompts you to think about the days of trains and trolleys as a golden age for mass transit. Back then you could go anywhere in the country or your own neighberhood cheaply, reliably, safely; and you could embark from stations like Pawtucket - Central Falls. Today we have squalid bus teminals, labyrinthine bunker-like airports, no trolleys anywhere and practically no rail service to speak of. But we have lots of freeways, like the one that splits Providence in half and gouges its way through Pawtucket. It’d be nice to see this building saved. It’s a beauty.

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