Railway Preservation News

New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)"
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Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)"

Shawmont Station, on the original Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown (later Reading/SEPTA), reported/reputed to have been built in 1834:

A treasured Upper Roxborough landmark made the list this month. Shawmont Station made this year’s list of Endangered Places, according to the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Built in 1834, the station still occupies the original location, 7700 Nixon St., near the Montgomery County border and the Manayunk Canal towpath entrance. It sits along SEPTA’s Manayunk-Norristown Regional rail line.

It is the oldest surviving passenger railroad station in the United States. It was built by the city’s first railroad, the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railroad. According to the Preservation Alliance, at the time of the station’s construction, the chief designer for PG&N was the famous Philadelphia architect William Strickland, whose other works include Merchant’s Exchange and the Second Bank of the United States.

http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/ ... 985753.txt

http://hiddencityphila.org/2013/12/enda ... t-station/

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 99&t=52103

There have been questions raised by some station historians as to the veracity of the "1834" construction claim, which came about more recently than previous "ca. 1855" speculation. The line was definitely opened to service in 1834, but no one has yet to my knowledge offered proof that the building was actually constructed then and not at a later date. Some have claimed that the building's "Greek Revival" design was popular in the 1830s, while others say such a design would be later into the 1840s. The building was definitely added to in later Philadelphia & Reading days, and does look more like a repurposed farmhouse or tavern than a station.


Author:  ns2110 [ Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)

" The Alliance fears that without regular monitoring and maintenance, the site’s isolated location leaves it prone to vandalism and the elements."

This is certainly the truest of true statements. The rate of graffiti in Manayunk/Roxborough is rising at an alarming rate. Just today I rode the Norristown Line and noted how almost every square inch of retaining wall along Cresson Street is covered in graffiti. Fixing this station up would quickly be met with the local vandal's touch in no time.

Author:  RDG fan [ Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)

As far as I know, it's true that the circa-1834 construction date for Shawmont station hasn't been 100% proven beyond any doubt. But here is some of the evidence supporting this:

1) In 2008, William Louis Breard, a professor at Philadelphia University, made a detailed architectural study, and his report included the following statement:

"The final exterior Station House features in the Greek Revival Style are the exterior wall materials: load bearing Wissahickon Schist rubble, approximately 18" thick, clad in smooth stucco which was scored, ruled and sand textured to imitate more expensive cut ashlar limestone. In Center City Philadelphia, this facade treatment was chiefly in vogue during the 1820's and 1830's. ..... As attractive and fashionable as this treatment was, by the 1840's other facade veneering materials, such as brownstone over load bearing masonry succeeded the stucco cladding technique on most commercial buildings..."

2) The fact that this is a substantially-built stone structure might also imply that it was built at the same time the railroad itself was built, and was built BEFORE the railroad knew which locations would become important. Shawmont is about at the midpoint of the Norristown Branch, as measured between the endpoints of Norristown and 16th Street Junction in Philadelphia, but it never amounted to much in terms of local rail business. Other PG&N stations built at intermediate points in the 1840s and later were built of wood, so if Shawmont dates from the 1840s or later, it likely would have also been of wood construction.

3) Regarding Shawmont's style looking like a farm house or tavern, several other PG&N stations also look like farm houses, yet were purpose-built as railroad stations.

Research into the origins of Shawmont station are also complicated by at least one name change. The name was changed from "Green Tree" to Shawmont in August 1873. It is possible that when constructed in the 1830s, the location was designated by yet a third name. The surviving early records of the PG&N RR are housed at the Germantown Historical Society in Philadelphia, but I don't know to what extent anyone may have gone through these to confirm Shawmont's construction date.

-- Rick Bates

Author:  Les Beckman [ Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)

Rick -

Thanks for the info. I sure hope that something can be done to ensure this stations restoration and permanent survival. Whatever the date built, it's a terrific looking structure and needs to saved.


Author:  RDG fan [ Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New PR/Listing for Endangered "Oldest Station In U.S.(?)

Here is a YouTube video which, among other things, explains the scored concrete/stucco that is one of the primary features being used to date this station to the 1830s:


Any architecture experts out there are welcome to comment.

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