The original design of this building was conceived by architect Alfred T. Fellheimer of the firm Fellheimer & Long with the purpose of functioning as the administrative headquarters of the NYW&B railroad, for which he fashioned in the style of an Italian villa. Working in association with fellow architect, Allen M. Stein, construction was completed in 1912 and six decades later, the building was proudly designated as a New York City Landmark (1976) and subsequently, listed on the National Register of Historic Places four years later in 1980.
More than a century has gone by since the NYW&B Administration Building opened its doors at the 180th Street railway station in Bronx county and the facts that belong to its history are still quite fascinating. Here are 8 noteworthy facts about the historical structure.
Both Alfred T. Fellheimer and Alen M Stein were nationally known specialists in railroad station architecture, having originally designed many famed structures including the Grand Central Terminal, also designated a New York City Landmark in 1967.
2. The Railway was supposed to reach as far as Boston
The former New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, was conceived to eventually reach Boston, but instead it never made it that far north and the electric railway only ran 21 miles from Harlem River Terminal in the Bronx to White Plains in suburban Westchester.
3. "The Westchester," as the line was popularly known, never made a profit
There were a number of reasons for this. One problem was a result of timing and growing progress in transportation. With the automobile industry beginning to explode by the 1920s and the development of scenic parkways proving a success in managing intracity auto traffic, the NYW&B could not successfully compete as a commuter railroad. Additionally, at this time, the "Westchester" offered lower fares but required riders to transfer to the IRT in the Bronx, as opposed to higher fares for a one-seat ride to Grand Central. Convenience won out as most commuters chose the latter, causing the line to continually lose money.
After forging on in spite of not making a profit, the company declared bankruptcy in 1937, ending service after 25 years.
Since the 1940s the building has functioned as the entrance to the 180th Street station of the New York City transit system, with administrative offices on the upper floors. However, artistically, it is one of a series of fabulously ornate stations that were built along the line in the early 1900's, which include this station (at E. 180th St) and others at the time, including Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Gun Hill Road, Baychester Avenue, and Dyre Avenue. Giving such attention to detail , with artistic architectural style was unique, especially at a time when other railroad lines settled for sheds or shacks for their stations.
5. The NYW&B was considered state of the art for its time
Conceived in 1872, it was delayed for a few decades by the Panic of 1873, essentially a depression. The railroad began construction in 1906, after coming out of receivership in the early 1900s, and built north, with the northernmost stations at Rye and Port Chester opening in 1928 and 1929. When most stations opened in 1912, the NYW&B was considered state of the art for its time, taking power from overhead lines, no grade crossings, high platforms to enable comfortable boarding, and spacious, architecturally attractive ticket offices/station houses.
6. Italian Renaissance Style was a nationwide favorite with architects of the period
According to Emilio Guerra and the 1976 NYCLPC Landmark Designation Report, "The Westchester's" railroad stations ... is one of the two surviving stations inspired by the Italian villa style in the city; the other is the Paulding station nearby on Esplanade.
7. The Centennial of the NYW&B was celebrated in 2012 with a renovation project
In 2012, the The New York City Transit Authority budgeted $66.6 million for renovation of the structure led by Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects in association with Weidlinger Associates. Renovations included the conversion of a damp and humid passageway between the administration building and the passenger platforms to a more inviting and brightly lit corridor, as well as new artwork commissioned by Luisa Caldwell.
8. The clock on the building was not part of the original renovation plans
It's hard to believe that with such a large renovation budget, it did not include the restoration of the clock beneath the sculpture of Mercury on the building's facade. However, the president of Citnalta Construction Corporation, general contractor for the project, didn't like the building's appearance without a clock and as a result, located a 45-inch diameter clock with Roman numerals and covered its $8,000 price and labor to install it as an extra contribution to the renovation project.
- Dunlap, David W. (2013, February 1). A Revived Century-Old Landmark (Not That One). The New York Times, p A19.