Waldwick, Bergen County
Year listed: 2011
11/2011: After six years of advocacy and fundraising, the Waldwick Community Alliance broke ground this month on exterior restoration of the Waldwick Railroad Station. They expect exterior work to be complete early in 2012.
The Waldwick Railroad Station was built in 1886 and is an excellent example of the small suburban frame railroad depots that were popular throughout New Jersey during the late 19th century. It was later utilized as a shelter for train commuters until it was closed by NJ Transit in the 1970s and no longer maintained.
Designed in a vernacular Queen Anne Style, this New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places-listed station features a corbelled chimney, slate roof, half timbering and stucco walls, iron ridge cresting, decorative stick work in the gables and carved brackets supporting its broad eaves. The interior is in good condition, and retains decorative wood trim around the doors and windows and wainscoting and beaded board finishes throughout. Also extant are historic details emblematic of the building type, including benches and a central cast iron stove for heating.
Years of neglect have taken a toll on the Waldwick Railroad Station. The depot suffers from roof leaks, as well as standing water that that has deteriorated the foundation and sill plates, creating structural instability. A 2009 historic structure report noted priority repairs and improvements, including roof replacement, sill plate replacement and re-grading around the building to prevent further water damage.
Since 2005, the deteriorated station’s champion has been the Waldwick Community Alliance (WCA), a nonprofit group of local residents and business owners whose emphasis is on improving the downtown area around the railroad tracks, focusing on restoration of the unused station as a catalyst. While the group had been raising funds for the station’s preservation for five years, securing large donations and grants has been difficult because the nonprofit does not have control of the property. In 2009, after several years of negotiation, the WCA finally secured a long-term lease for the depot from New Jersey Transit. Since that time the, WCA has secured the interior and provided temporary roof repairs.
Ultimately, the all-volunteer WCA aims to establish a local history and railroad museum. The group has been collecting photographs and documents as well as artifacts from the rail station, including a functioning freight scale, original iron fencing, early 20th-century light fixtures and freight receipts that help illustrate the small depot’s role in the late 19th / early 20th century transportation industry and suburban growth the area enjoyed as a result of the construction Waldwick Station. At one time, 50% of all households in Waldwick had a least one family member working for the railroad.
In 2011, when all activity seems to be focused on positive progress (preservation studies, fundraising, work approvals pending) the state has announced that the WCA will be required to prepare a seismic study on the building, to determine its stability during an earthquake. This is yet another roadblock for a determined group of citizens with limited financial resources and a historic building desperately in need of real structural stabilization.
This is the tale of a true advocacy project that has reached a decisive moment. A lease is in place, fundraising events have been scheduled, preservation planning has been accomplished, and a capital grant application has been submitted to Bergen County and is awaiting evaluation. But by no means is the building out of danger. Once the project is fully funded and restoration complete, efforts will then need to transition from saving the structure to establishing an active and sustainable use for the resource that will restore its places as a centerpiece of a vibrant, revitalized community.
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