The Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station is an example of early twentieth century railroad station design. Built in 191 5 and opened in 1916, the station was the result of a decades-long debate as to how to eliminate the many dangerous at-grade crossings in the adjoining cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls. This was a period when these two cities were at their peak of industrial and population growth, and the railroad was the primary form of transport for both passengers and merchandise. The first railroad passing through Pawtucket, the Providence & Worcester, was opened in 1847; the Boston & Providence was joined to this original line the following year. Through numerous leases, the New York, New Haven & Hartford absorbed the Providence & Worcester in 1892 and the Boston & Providence in 1893.
The first stat ion buildings were located at the head of Exchange Street and Broad Street, south of the tracks. As time passed, Pawtucket’s importance as an industrial center continued to grow. A larger stat ion was built in 1872, on Broad Street, west of the tracks. Meanwhile, Central Falls had its own depot, officially listed as 0.45 miles from the Pawtucket station. This stat ion was remodeled and expanded to accommodate increased traffic through the years. Trains that stopped at Pawtucket also stopped at Central Falls.
By 1892 all at-grade crossings had been eliminated through Providence but rail traffic continued to conflict with road and pedestrian traffic through Pawtucket and Central Falls. As both Pawtucket and Central Fall s continued to grow, the incidence of accidents at these crossings increased. The solution was to depress the railroad tracks below ground surface, but initial attempts to remedy this situation, beginning in the late nineteenth century, were thwarted by competition between Central Falls and Pawtucket. Central Falls was fiercely jealous of its own independence, wishing to have its own depot. However, the New Haven Railroad did not want to build two stations so close to each other. Debate continued for approximately two decades with numerous proposals submitted for various routings, grade changes. etc. In 1912 the Rhode Island General Assembly ordered the Governor to appoint a Pawtucket and Central Fall s Grade Crossing Commission made up of one representative from each city and the railroad to resolve the conflict. This commission submitted a plan in September 1912 for relocation and realignment of the tracks and construction of a single railroad station to serve both Pawtucket and Central Falls.
The stat ion was designed by F.W. Mellor. architect for the New Haven Railroad. Norcross Brothers of Worcester erected the building over structural steel erected by Levering and Garrigues of New York. The retaining walls were constructed by C.W. Blakeslee and Sons of New Haven who also served as general contractors for all masonry work and street changes. The grade separation required the construction of eight highway and one foot bridge. The American Bridge Company erected the Conant and Dexter Street bridges, and the other steel bridges were erected by the Boston Bridge Works. The grade separation, relocation, and stat ion cost $2, 500,000. The cost for the station was $325,000. The cities paid 35 percent of the cost, and the railroad carried the remaining 65 percent.
It could be argued that the cities of Central Falls and Pawtucket received a more imposing station than was warranted. Train traffic though the station was local only. Any traveler to places beyond Boston, Worcester, Franklin, Plymouth, or Providence had to change train s in Providence. Regardless, the station was an immediate success upon opening. Some 155 train s a day passed through Pawtucket at that time with no fewer than 140 stopping at the new station. Seventy thousand departures a month was considered average for the Pawtucket station then, with the bulk of the passengers traveling to and from Providence. Business at the stat ion boomed until the Great Depression of the 1930s, and picked up again during World War II. The end of gasoline rationing after the war, however, doomed the railroad's passenger service, and the ticket office was closed in 1959. The following year the building was locked. Nine trains continued to provide service to Boston in 1969 when the New Haven Railroad was absorbed by Penn Central. All service ended in 1970. Today only three tracks pass under the station, two for Amtrak and one for the Providence & Worcester.
In 1972 the building was purchased by A & B Realty. Numerous plans have been proposed for alternate uses of the station, however, none have materialized. The current owner operated a flea market out of the building for many years. The station is now vacant.
Scope and Contents: Records consists of photographs, written historical and descriptive data for the Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station. The Rhode Island Freight Rail Improvement Project from North Kingstown to Central Falls, Rhode Island was initially found to have an adverse effect on the Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station, a very significant historic property that was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Project design plans were modified to the extent that project impacts to this historic resource were eliminated.