Until recently having lived a reincarnated life, the former Ontario and Western Railway Station in Middletown has become a ruin seemingly without immediate prospect of resuscitation. Partly damaged by fire on February 2, 2004, the handsome three-story brick building was home to several small shops and businesses. Untouched since the fire, the building now serves unofficially as a homeless shelter - occupation is quite evident throughout the building. Will it be saved while still in generally good condition?
Built in 1892, the railroad station was designed by architect Bradford Lee Gilbert, who redesigned New York City’s Grand Central Depot in 1898 (not be to confused with the present Grand Central Terminal, which was designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem). The Ontario and Western line ran from Weehawken, NJ to Oswego, NY, until 1957 when the U.S. Government ordered it to cease operations. Conrail later assumed ownership of the line, which is still used for freight service. The Middletown station was given new life in the 1970s as a restaurant/night club named “O & W Station” (the tacky sign still hangs on one end of the building). Among the small businesses to work out of the station before the fire were a baseball card & collectibles shop and a photography studio.
The fire only damaged the western end of the building, which is a rather large structure, much longer and taller than most railroad stations along the Hudson River by comparison. Typically, the Middletown business district has relocated to a bland commercial strip outside of downtown, leaving places like the Ontario and Western Railway Station derelict. But repair and reuse could be done here - one can easily imagine the station being converted to a unique residential building.
With information from the Times Herald-Record.
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