Thursday, November 1, 2012
That "old, simple building" (DDA) is a nationally important--Sun Times 10.31.12
Re: Chelsea Livery
For nearly three years, I have been following the news concerning the livery in Chelsea, a site I visited in the 1990s as the author of Great American Railroad Stations. This 570-page book was commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and published by John Wiley & Sons. The foreword was written by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was responsible for the massive restoration and adaptive use of Union Station in Washington, D.C.
My extensive articles about historic transportation and adaptive use of railroad stations have appeared in numerous scholarly publications. In addition, I am the principal interviewee in two hour-long documentary films produced for The History Channels: one on the renowned Grand Central Terminal and the other on Manhattan’s original Pennsylvania Station.
For Great American Railroad Stations, which covers every state in the country, I conducted direct investigations and held consultations with hundreds of historians, architects, entrepreneurs, transportation specialists, librarians, and state historic preservation officers. The book has an extensive essay on the social and architectural history of the building type. It then profiles more than 700 extant depots (of all sizes), the most significant in the country. One of these is the Chelsea railroad station.
Among the criteria for a station to be considered, “context” was extremely important. Is the station still in its original location? Are the tracks still there? Do trains still run on these tracks? And—very relevant to Chelsea—do any railroad-related buildings survive in the vicinity of the station? Such auxiliary buildings tell the story of a station and vastly increase its historical and educational significance. Few places retain them. Chelsea is extraordinary and, in my view, literally unique in retaining not only the first hotel but also the livery. In my research, I uncovered no equivalent situation. An extremely limited number of railroad hotels remain; I know of no liveries whatsoever. A livery was an integral and critical part of a railroad station complex in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The loss of this building would affect not only Chelsea, but also the history of everyday life in the United States.
Janet Greenstein Potter
8425 Navajo St.
Philadelphia, PA 19118