Carrying on the momentum of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a Middletown ruin is getting the upgrades it deserves.
The city’s beloved O&W Train Station is slated to undergo renovations after several local politicians rallied money together to revive the building.
“The building has deteriorated so much since the building’s heyday, but we lose sight of the fact that it was here because it was a train station. It was the epicenter of development and transportation for the region,” said Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano.
Built in 1892, the train station linked transportation between Oswego and Weehawken, New Jersey, with the last passenger train leaving the station in 1957. Since then, it’s been a staple in the community, both as a site of entertainment and a landmark to anyone that’s walked down the streets of Middletown.
After a fire in 2004 left the building empty and in a state of disrepair, the project to revitalize it took a group effort, and momentum carried over from improvements as a result of 2016’s DRI grant.
“It really does take a village. If you walk around today, and you were here 10 years ago, the improvements are incredible,” said New York state Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
“It’s a combination of different governmental agencies working together, but we wouldn’t be where we were if Assemblywoman Gunther didn’t step up to the plate,” said DeStefano.
According to DeStefano, the eyesore is turning into a community resource. Although currently an empty building, the surrounding area is far from quiet. Located on every side of the structure are stores, gas stations and pedestrians.
“Oh, it’s a little rough. There were people living in there at one time,” said Lou Francese, owner of Mountain Restaurant Supply. “Finally, they put a fence around it that stopped it, which is good. But you know, it’s just been a little rough.”
Mountain Restaurant Supply has called its warehouse behind the abandoned train station home for 28 years, and Francese has seen the deterioration of the building happen in real time. Those that have called Middletown home for a lifetime know that hasn’t always been the case.
“So we all knew the O&W Station, a lot good memories of bell bottoms and disco music,”said Gunther.
She’s referring to the dance club that once hosted partygoers in the 1970s, and called the station home along with a baseball card shop and photography studio.
Recent occupants of the building have just been wildlife, but soon community staples will call it home. The property already has a majority tenant in Headstart, a school-readiness program for low-income communities. Mayor DeStefano is optimistic about the revitalization of the building, saying much of the occupancy of the new structure is spoken for and will include community resources.
“It’s a symbol of our prosperity in the 30s, 40s, 50s ... but also a symbol of urban decay, the 80s, 90s and so forth,” said DeStefano. “We’re eliminating that urban decay. We’re going back to that beautiful historical structure that you couldn’t build today. Never could build that kind of building today, at least in upstate New York, you’re not doing it.”
Those on the same block are just excited to have some new life in the building.
“It’s a neighbor, so it’ll be good,” said Francese.