With the seemingly countless proposed changes along the 125th Street corridor in Harlem, including the approved city rezoning plan, we thought we would take a look inside the elevated Metro North Station. There was a time, in 1844, when the New York Central and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (ancestors of today’s Metro North) ran at grade level along Park Avenue in Harlem.
The grade level station was demolished to make way for the elevated viaduct, which was built between 1896-1897. It was designed by Morgan O’Brien who was New York Central and Hudson River Railroad’s principal architect. After years of neglect, the Metro North 125th Street Station underwent a six year ‘replication’ which was completed in 1999. It was called a replication rather then a renovation because none of the original structure is visible. But great thought and care were given to the details, selecting paint samples from that era, using solid oak tongue-and-groove paneling imitating the original and using textured quarry tile for the flooring, among the details.
Today, this is a full-access station. Ridership has increased 55% since 2002 and the Metro North Station and Plaza are slated for another renovation. This time it will be a $6 million dollar facelift to coincide with numerous significant projects planned for 125th Street to the east and west, including two 32-story, mixed use buildings that will go up right next door at 1800 Park Avenue, beginning construction this year.
This stretch of 125th Street in the immediate area of Metro North has seen enormous interest and activity. Extell recently purchased the Pathmark site one block away, and a Proton Center to treat cancer patients will move forward with their 120,000 square foot space that was hotly debated due to eminent domain of some of the properties. The Real Deal mapped some of the new construction projects in Harlem back in September of 2013. Interest and projects have indeed grown since then.
In spite of it all, women in colorful dresses and scarfs made of African fabric sit on folding chairs in front of their hair bradding salons, men wearing sandwich boards walk the sidewalks advertising that they buy gold, pawn shops on corners, wig shops and hair supply shops all sit side-by-side with their new neighbors while 125th Street changes right in front of their eyes.
Next to the 125th Street Metro North Station, on the north west corner, stands the historic Corn Exchange Bank building currently under redevelopment. The aluminum relief sculptures along the Metro North bridge over 125th Street pictured above were done by New York artist Terry Adkins who used a Sphinx motif from a Harlem Renaissance artist.
In addition, Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway will end at 125th Street and Lexington, connecting to the 4/5/6 trains and the redeveloped Metro North Station. A 40,000 square foot Whole Foods is expected to open on the corner of Lenox Avenue and 125th Street in 2015. Harlemites have a lot to look forward to but will the changes allow current residents to stay in the neighborhood?.
Get in touch with the author @AFineLyne. Read more about 125th Street including an illustrated restaurant crawl of Harlem, Little Senegal in Harlem, Art on the Gates at 125th Street, exploring 125th Street, repurposing of the 125th St Viaduct and visit the Demolition Depot on 125th Street