Ashtabula Depot Demolished

The former New York Central passenger station in Ashtabula was demolished late last week by CSX.

The demolition occurred despite some efforts to save it, including an idea to transform it into an Amtrak station.

That idea was put forth by the 21st Century Ashtabula Depot Rail Experience, a non-profit group created three years ago. It received backing from the city, but never got any further.

Ashtabula County historian and author Carl Feather told the Star Beacon that the lesson of the loss of the station is that people shouldn’t think in terms of museums only when attempting to save historic structures.

He cited the example of the Hotel Ashtabula, which was saved by linking its preservation to the county’s mental health needs.

“Historic preservation is shifting toward finding new uses for these old buildings,” Feather said. “Unfortunately, the depot was located in an area that is not conducive to re-use. If it was located in a different area, it might have been an excellent site for a restaurant and party center.”

Feather said Ashtabula is a small town and lacks the income level needed to support a higher-end venture.

“The county cannot support the museums we already have, and they are begging for volunteers and funds to keep the doors open. Most are open only a couple days a week and three months out of the year,” he said.

CSX said it demolished the 117-year structure, one of the oldest in Ashtabula, because of safety concerns.

However, the railroad said it has contacted local officials about salvaging materials from the depot.

Although Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has passed by the station since it was inaugurated in late October 1975, it has never had a scheduled stop in Ashtabula.

The last passenger trains scheduled to stop in Ashtabula were four Penn Central trains that operated between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, and were discontinued with the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

The station was a stop for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign train and sat within 1,000 feet of the deadliest train bridge collapse in U.S. history, which killed 83 people in 1876.

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