County: Essex County
The Lackawanna Train Terminal opened to great acclaim in 1913. Designed by the ill-fated William Hull Botsford, who went down on the Titanic, it served as the terminus of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad between Hoboken and Montclair, which allowed thousands of local residents the ability to commute to New York City in relative comfort and ease until its final run in the 1980s.
The arrival of the railroad to Montclair signaled a shift from our agricultural society to a commuter suburb. The station was hailed as the “handsomest and best arranged suburban railroad terminal in the United States”, according to the Montclair Times of April 15, 1912; while the New York Times stated on June 29, 1913 that “the architects made every effort to make it one of the most artistic suburban stations in the country”.
In a 1980’s redevelopment project, architectural firm, Beyer, Blinder and Belle, supervised an adaptive reuse scheme of the train shed steel columns. Most of those steel stanchions are in place today, having served as the centerpiece of an interior mall with an anchor grocery store. Having survived two previous demolition attempts, the Lackawanna Train Terminal is now under threat again from a developer who intends to demolish the historic train platform sheds to double the size of the surface parking lot fronting on Bloomfield Avenue. The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission has attempted to communicate the importance of maintaining the structures within the new site plan. Unfortunately, in 2019, the Montclair Planning Board approved the site plan including the demolition of a significant portion of the train platform sheds.
The Lackawanna Train Station is a significant architectural and engineering resource reflective of the expansion of the American railroad system at the turn-of-the-century. The significance of the station is viewed in its entirety, including the threatened train sheds, which are a descendant of the Bush train sheds. Lighter in appearance, Montclair’s sheds are known as “butterfly” sheds, with openings above the train tracks. Their distinctive columnar structure is reminiscent of butterfly wings.
Today, this site, historically known as the Montclair Railroad Station or the Delaware-Lackawanna and Western Station is referred to as Lackawanna Plaza on the developer’s site plan. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, and exists within the Town Center Historic District. As stated in Montclair Code Section 347-135A, the Montclair Railroad or Lackawanna Plaza site satisfies four of the five criteria deemed necessary for local landmark listing. As a local landmark the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission considers this site to be worthy of its designation. It considers the “buildings, structure objects, and the site have integrity of location, design setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association”.
Preservation New Jersey supports the view of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission who calls for a more sensitive redevelopment of the site. All of the identified historic fabric remaining within the site of the former Lackawanna Train Station must be saved and celebrated as highly significant to the development of Montclair.
Montclair Historic Preservation Commission
Kathleen M. Bennett