Milton-on-Hudson Station, Milton

One of Ulster County’s renovated train stations

A man ambles into the grand old waiting room — with its original 26-foot bench, high ceilings, and tall windows — and shuffles across the original hardwood floors (recently re-stained to a high shine). He’s not from here. He worked as a police officer in Las Vegas and retired to Florida. But he grew up here, and the Milton-on-Hudson train station was a part of his youth — as it was for so many locals. So when he heard what was happening, he just had to stop by.

When the Royal Kedem winery vacated the station, which it had been using as its tasting room, in 1998 and donated the building and the surrounding property to the town of Marlborough, it seemed inevitable that somebody would restore it.

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The history of the site began with its use by Native Americans. For centuries, this clearing hard by the Hudson River was the only access point to water for miles up- or downstream; eventually, it became a bustling dock. In 1883, a station was built for the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway, which ran up the west bank of the river and hooked west at Albany towards Buffalo and Lake Erie. The company was soon consolidated, but commuter trains kept running until 1954, taking Marlborough’s children south to school in Newburgh and, in the opposite direction, connecting New Jersey with Buffalo and then Chicago. When the building ceased being a freight station in 1968, Royal Kedem took over.

milton on hudson stationAn undated image of the “West Shore Depot” in Milton

milton station interiorThe station’s refurbished interior

By the early 2000s, however, the station was in a sorry state. In 2006, just a year before the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places, the Friends of the Milton-on-Hudson Station — since incorporated as the nonprofit Milton Train Station Foundation — put in more than 9,000 hours of work. (Over the years, the group has also raised upwards of $260,000 for the cleanup and rehab of the only remaining train station on the western bank of the Hudson that’s open to the public.) Every Saturday morning, between four and nine volunteers, under the direction of former Foundation president Pat Quick, have chipped away at the gargantuan task. Two adjacent buildings were knocked down to clear the lot. Volunteers dug out the crawl space using a bucket passed by rope through a hatch in the floor, and painstakingly dismantled a chimney that wasn’t original to the building. They fixed up the original floors, siding, wainscoting, ceilings, and trim in the passenger room. Just one interior door, three-quarters of an exterior door, and no windows remained — so they were reconstructed based on old photos. The volunteers found lamps to match the first electric lights used in public spaces.

milton on hudson station exteriorThe building as it looks today (awaiting a new roof)

Hurricane Irene set them back, flooding the basement and saturating the insulation. But things could have been worse. If the water had risen another inch or two, the floors would have been lost.

The interior is almost finished now, with only the freight room requiring more work. The rest of the space is already being utilized for town meetings and other local community events. “It’s amazing to think how much has been done to it,” says Glenn Clarke, the former president of the Friends. “We’ve come a long way. There’s a little way left to go. A lot of it is down to money.” Most of the work that remains to be done
involves the building’s exterior. A new roof is needed and will cost some $116,000, which hasn’t been entirely raised yet. Then the siding needs refurbishing to the tune of some $90,000, with the dark red lead paint encapsulated and covered up with the original soft green shade. “One of our big projects right now is finding funding for a new roof,” says another past president, Peter Hoffmann. “Certainly, Hurricane Irene has made that more urgent.”

Then again, this station has stood for 130 years. And thanks to these efforts, it should stand a good while longer.

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