Our History

OUR HISTORY

The following Statement of Significance is taken from the application to place the Train Station on the National Register of Historic Places. The application was filed by The Save The Station committee, Robert Bickford and C. Birbara in 1975.

The Windsor Locks Passenger Station is architecturally and historically significant because it is an excellent example of the many small—town railroad stations built in America during the latter half of the~ 19th century. Its importance is highlighted by its aesthetic unity, physical condition and present position in the Amtrak system. Since there are twelve trains a day through the station, an unusual degree of public accessibility is maintained, and the building is experienced in its original context.

The basic architectural theme is one of utilitarian simplicity. The placing of the ticket offices, the use of a steep roof to shelter the boarding area, and the heavy struts all show a concern for the union of form and function. The idea of structural honesty is carried through with the roof bracing at the ends. The simple wainscot and plaster interior complements the plain external surfaces. Finally, a modest degree of elaboration — the end moldings and dormers - avoids starkness yet is entirely appropriate to the scale and workaday purpose of the building.

Historically, the railroad had a major impact on small—town life. Not only did it provide communication and opportunities for personal mobility, but it also encouraged economic growth. For many people it symbolized progress, prosperity and the benefits of technology. Depots were the centers of rail activity, yet comparatively few remain to recall the importance of the railroad in nineteenth—century America. The Windsor Locks station is a representative artifact of this era, typical in both its modest design and the role it played in the town.

For Windsor Locks, the railroad was even more significant because the town historically has always been dependent upon transportation. In 1829 a canal was built to circumvent falls in the Connecticut River and Windsor Locks grew around this facility. Beginning in 1844, the railroad replaced the canal, but continued to sustain the economic growth of the town. Rail traffic steadily increased, and in 1875 the present station was built to more adequately accommodate travelers on the Hartford—Springfield line. Up until World War II the station served a steady flow of passengers. Today, Windsor Locks continues in the transportation business as the home of Bradley International Airport.

More History

windsor locks train station history

The following history of the Windsor Locks Passenger Train Station was compiled by Historian Mickey Danyluk in 2004. The existing abandoned passenger train station was built in 1875 by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, some 31 years after the railroad came through Windsor Locks, replacing transportation of goods and people on the Connecticut River and its canal at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The train station is the sole surviving structure of the mid-19th century Main Street business district of the once quaint industrial village of "Windsor Locks" founded in 1854.

Many of the products of the mills in town were shipped from the accompanying brick freight station which was blown down in a hurricane which struck New England on September 21, 1938, rebuilt and in later years acquired for demolition during the urban renewal project of the 1960's through the 1980's. The railroad yard included the freight station, passenger station, water tower, and gateman's shanty (where a gate tender would be sheltered from the weather and upon an approaching train, drop the gate manually to close the route to the canal and river bridges).

The passenger train station was for many years the "front door" to the town. The newly arrived, passing the station's thresholds, received their first impressions of Windsor Locks and their parting glances from the Station. From its telegraph office - news from beyond the limits of this riverside town were received. The station was a gathering place to receive and send off loved ones, most particularly military servicemen who departed to train for service, and the place to which those who paid the supreme sacrifice were received. Such military send-offs occurred during the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean Conflict. Crowds gathered at the station on June 10, 1891 for what would be the grandest day ever in the town's history - the dedication of the Soldiers Memorial Hall, when hundreds of Civil War veterans, judges, political figures and countless dignitaries arrived via train, and formed a parade marching through the streets of Windsor Locks to the Memorial Hall.

In December 1906 crowds gathered again as guests from all over New England arrived via the train and were transported by carriages to attend the wedding of Thomasine Haskell (grand daughter of Charles Haskell Dexter) and George Conant at Ashmere, the Dexter Coffin mansion further South on Main Street.

From the Windsor Locks Passenger Station departed Miss Jane Carr, an Irish domestic servant who worked in the mansions of two families here. She left to attend to the needs of her nieces and nephews in Ireland, but was lost before returning here in the Titanic tragedy of April 1912. There were many whistlestop visits of war heroes after World War I.

Originally painted a yellow-cream with Tudor brown and forest green highlights, the station was neglected and fell into disrepair in the 1920's and 30's. In the 1940's a thorough clean-up was done and the building was sand blasted, leaving it's red brick appearance.

Dwight Eisenhower visited the Windsor Locks Train Station on a whistle stop during his presidency (1953-1961) much to the joy of the townspeople and school children who were let out and gathered at the station. The last boarding passes were sold about 1971 and the building was closed thereabouts. Slated for demolition, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 (the Station 100th anniversary) by a group called, The Save the Station Committee. Sadly, the town's redevelopment agency did not pursue its acquisition.

Windsor Locks native, Ella Tambussi Grasso, the first woman elected governor in the nation, boarded a Hartford bound train from this very station January 8, 1975 for her inauguration. By the late 1970's the Passenger Station ceased to be a functioning train stop. Twice in the past 30+ years, local businessmen attempted to lease and rehabilitate the structure, but their attempts failed.

Although the building has been vacant, neglected and time-worn by the elements; despite surviving arson, the old Train Station has captured the imagination of the townspeople, railroad buffs and travelers, young and old. All cherish its appearance - its simple but stunning architecture, and wonder about the tales of people who have come and gone, and the places departed for and arrived from which hang in the space between its walls.