The New York Central Railroad Station

New York Central Railroad.

Designed by renowned architect Claude Fayette Bragdon, the demolition of the third building of the New York Central Railroad station is, arguably, one of the greatest losses to Rochester’s architectural scenery and history.

The railroad station construction began in 1913 and opened for business on January 19, 1914. Throughout the station one could find Bragdon’s passion and knowledge of the type of structure he was designing embedded in the decorations as well as the layout. All the elements of Bragdon’s interior and exterior designs were absolutely stunning, fusing railroad motifs with functional space. The most obvious example could be seen in the arched central windows, which incorporated a driving wheel theme, influenced by Bragdon’s studies of railroads and engines prior to this commission.

The exterior was constructed using dark brick and brownstone. The interior boasted vaulted brick ceilings, the lower walls and sides of staircases were tiled. There were also such details as Greuby Tile wainscoting, faience, and Gaustavino vaulting, all in beautiful deep, autumn-toned hues; colors that could withstand the certain smoke and grime that would taint them but not diminish their beauty throughout the years. 

New York Central Railroad. "It’s three large arched windows symbolized the driving wheels of a great locomotive, and other ornamentation in its brick exterior and tile interior revealed the architect’s skill in rendering functional details of railroad technology in the medium of architecture."
Rochester History, Volume 29, No. 2, April 1967, p. 10
Interior of New York Central Station. Interior of the elaborate main entrance to the New York Central Railroad Station.

Besides the railroad theme geometrical designs and ornamental details, Bragdon also infused his study of music. He was guided by musical ratios, which he actually used to determine the size and scale of the entire building.

The architect himself favored the New York Central Railroad station as one of his best works and the building is often referred to as his masterpiece.

New York Central Railroad lunch counter. New York Railroad.

The decline in rail travel, in favor of the faster, more convenient air travel, forced the station to cease operations. The building was then sold to a private investor who ordered the demolition to begin in 1965 when a suitable use for the structure could not be found. The last section was destroyed in 1978.


Costa, Erville, Rochester History. "Claude F. Bragdon, Architect, Stage Designer, and Mystic," Vol. XXIX, No.4, October 1967.

McKelvey. Blake. Rochester History. "The Changing Face of Rochester," Vol. XXVI, No. 2, April 1964.

McKelvey. Blake. Rochester History. "Rochester’s Near Northeast," Vol. XXIV, No. 2, April 1967.

McKelvey. Blake. Rochester History, "Railroads in Rochester History," Vol. XXX, No. 4, October, 1968.

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