West of downtown Waterbury at the intersection of Meadow and Grand street stands a tower, a landmark to New Englanders traveling on I-84 or looking to traverse on the New York, New Haven, and Hartford rail road. Covering 2.4 acres and standing at two-hundred and forty feet the aforementioned tower belonged to no other than Waterbury station.
(Waterbury train station)
To delve into the history of Waterbury station one needs to start with the structure itself. There are four sections to the building including two wings, the main block, and the clock tower.
All brick are laid on common bond on a Stony Creek granite foundation, at the roofline is a roll molding of terra cotta. The two wings have a tiled hip roof and stick out from the main block. Both wings are narrower than other parts of the building and are similar to each other. The main block is three two story round arched window openings, which were filled in near the top. The main block is outlined in terra cotta with a vine design, bordered by pearl, egg and dart, and anthemion molding which are all architectural ornaments. Spacing them are our round medallions of two rings of raised radial brick and a raised ring of fasces molding. Atop is a course of terra cotta round-arched corbel table topped by egg-and-dart, a frieze with cherubs and projecting leaf molding. The level above has a series of small rectangular windows, three above each arch and one above each medallion. At the roofline is a cornice which is typically any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element similar to the one below but more complex, with carved modillions, a fluted frieze and wide carved cyma molding. Also inside the building resides a printing press that was added to the northern part of the building for paper circulation. The printing press is architecturally sympathetic and stays mostly out of the way, not disturbing the rest of the building.
The clock tower was not included in the original blueprints of waterbury station. An executive for the railroad traveled to Italy and upon his return he insisted on a bell tower. The tower is modeled after Torre Del Mangia in Sienna Italy. Along with gargoyles the tower houses the largest clock in New England with sixteen feet in diameter and 5 feet tall roman numerals. A bell was added in 1916. Architectural historian Carroll Meeks in The Railroad Station: An Architectural History, states that the bell was chosen as a deliberate rebuke to architectural amateurs such as the rail executive.
The interior has made a couple changes over the years. The main block and north wing have had a second story added in the seventies. In the new offices on the second floor the original vaulted ceiling remains with large light colored tiles in herringbone pattern. The windows contain the same lavish decorations as the exterior. With two bands of terra cotta done with leaves and pearl molding. The south wings interior which was originally a restaurant remained in use as a waiting room for passengers including brass ticket windows, a long mission style wooden bench, iron radiator grill, and marble baseboards and sills.
The history of the tower is nearly as rich as the structure itself. Built in 1909 for $332,000 by Mckim, Mead, and White for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Rail road. In the early twentieth century Waterbury still growing worked with New Haven during the urban renewal project, to make room for the larger station. Streets were adjusted and buildings demolished leaving the at that time new station and a small park. The stations extravagant size and decor symbolized the city’s prosperity mostly through the brass industry and the importance of the railroad system to it.
In the summer of 1909 the station welcomed passengers for the first time. In its hight of activity the station served as many as sixty-six passenger trains a day during the peak of traffic. A few years later the American Brass Company another large part what makes up Waterbury Connecticut, was constructed across the street from the station. The American Brass Company includes a lot of the same architectural concepts that are included in Waterbury station.
The rail continued as an inner city service until the city declined the it in the late twentieth century. In the seventies a newspaper that came to be known as The Republican American owned by William J. Pape occupied a portion of the station, designing it for its own uses. At that time the south wing was designated for Metro North passengers.
Today the building’s interior is closed to travelers and its purpose is to house The Republican American. The clock tower still serves as one of Connecticut’s great landmarks and the platform outside the station continues to be a boarding spot for passengers daily.