Montclair’s Lackawanna Train Terminal Makes 2019 List of 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in NJ

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Preservation New Jersey, Inc. (PNJ) announced its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey today and Montclair’s Lackawanna Train Terminal is on it.

Here’s how Preservation New Jersey describes the terminal and its inclusion on the list:

Lackawanna Train Terminal, Township of Montclair, Essex County

The Lackawanna Train Terminal opened to great acclaim in 1913. Designed by the ill-fated William Hull Botsford, who went down on the Titanic, it served as the terminus of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad between Hoboken and Montclair, which allowed thousands of local residents the ability to commute to New York City in relative comfort and ease until its final run in the 1980s. Having survived two previous demolition attempts, the Lackawanna Train Terminal is now under threat again from a developer who intends to demolish the historic train platform sheds to double the size of the surface parking lot. The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission has attempted to communicate the importance of maintaining the structures within the new site plan; but unfortunately, the Montclair Planning Board approved the site plan including the demolition of a significant portion of the train sheds. Preservation New Jersey supports the view of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission who calls for a more sensitive redevelopment of the site.

The concrete platform canopies at Lackawanna Terminal, Montclair, 1981, shortly after the tracks were removed.

The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archaeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost. The act of listing these resources acknowledges their importance to the heritage of New Jersey and draws attention to the predicaments that endanger their survival and the survival of historic resources statewide. The list, generated from nominations by the public, aims to attract new perspectives and ideas to sites in desperate need of creative solutions.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Shame on the Council for pushing the project through.

    They cannot deny us of our historic landmark.

    The Fourth Ward powers that be aren’t even getting a suitable supermarket. They need to back up their efforts with a professional planner.

  2. It is worth noting that the State of NJ Historic Preservation Office said they’re fine with it being demolished.

    As soon as Montclair’s Anti-Demolition Ordinance is adopted, the Pinnacle/Hampshire’s demolition crews will be out shorty thereafter. Talk about a PR mixed-message!

    Lidl might be slightly concerned with the negative media coverage, but Summer is just over a month away. Once the train sheds come down, everyone can go and enjoy the rest of their Summers.

  3. Please Frank… The State of NJ Historic Preservation Office says otherwise… they’re not fine with it… its a state landmark.

  4. Please don’t make it sound as though Montclair (the Montclair HPC) wasn’t trying to protect the landmark and that the state historic preservation office (SHPO) didn’t think that it is worthy of protection. The SHPO could not review Lackawanna because it is privately owned and they are not developing or demolishing any township or county property or buildings. If it were government owned it would be under a Section 106 review. There was a discussion at the beginning of the application and the township attorney and others decided that it did not fall under Section 106 review. That is the law. The fact that it is State and National registered doesn’t not add any protection. That is the law. The only thing that could have protected it or partial demo is the local designation (Town Center Historic District listing). However, the Planning Board decided to believe the Preservation “specialist” of the developer and THEY DECIDED that it wasn’t historic. Their rational was that they were acting in the ‘public good” of people who were demanding a grocery store  and decided it was OK to demolish the steel stanchions and roofs to extend the parking lot (Its not OK because the market won’t even be in the part they plan to demolish).

    The SHPO doesn’t write any options or advocate on historic properties. They only give funding to foster historic preservation and organize workshops and seminars and administer the CGL which administers grant opportunities from the federal government (the township of Montclair has received 3 preservation grants recently). The advocacy group for preservation is NJ Preservation it is very clear that they are advocating for the preservation of the train sheds at Lackawanna. (its now on the state’s 10 Most Endangered Sites list)

  5. Frank,

    You have many strengths – objectivity is not one. The MHPC did advocate, but late. In fact, the Planning Board members did the EXACT OPPOSITE. They wanted protection of the train sheds in 2017 and then they did a perfect 360…except one who resigned.

    Regarding SHPO, I can take the same facts you gave – and some more – and have them on the side of demolition. I stand by my comment that SHPO was fine with this. As to PreservationNJ’s list, I find it somewhat ludicrous at this stage in this project. Why should anyone from Cape May to High Point care a whit about a landmark that Montclair residents don’t?

    What is missing is a half-decent attorney who cares about preservation. I’m not aware of one in Montclair. It’s too bad. The mistakes, conflicts, and just piss-poor judgment around this application should deserve a lawsuit just to highlight – on the record – what happened. I also hope the municipal elections rehash what is clearly this administration’s most egregious action. Anyway, a half-decent attorney would see the procedural mistake. And I’m not talking about Councilor’s Schlager recusing herself after the fact. But, apparently there is not such an attorney….so, looks like were going to live without the landmark. You really need to start down the road of acceptance. (I’m sure our crackajack Council will not let you make any turns. Just brilliant!)

  6. Frank,
    To digress to the absurd.
    How funny was it that the Bike/Walk coalition drove down to the Planning Board’s Lackawanna Hearing to support its demolition and then …wait for it….wait for it, the Planning Board kills off bike lanes in Montclair 2 months later?

    The plots, sub-plots, & the performances… just so entertaining! Why pay HBO to watch the Game of Thrones?

    Note: it’s too bad the Council won’t stream all its meetings. Oh, right…no one wants to pay an increased cost for transparency of our governing body. Got it.

  7. Hopefully the “mistakes, conflicts, and just piss-poor judgment around this application” will be resolved by formal appeal.

  8. Its a dramatic tragedy that the Fourth Ward is demolishing itself. Its community is leaving Montclair and its landmarks are being destroyed by politics. The bike thing is just ridiculous.

  9. Yeah. The Bikers should not be allowed to use Walk in their coalition name. Walkers get the short-end ALL the time.

    If the formal appeal focuses on Chair & Vice Chair’s procedural mistakes on expert testimony specific to HP (HP was the whole issue in the application).

    The Chair allows an expert from New York State who has no strong connection to NJ or any to Montclair. The expert had one site visit. He held no licenses in NJ, but was recognized for his professional work and education as an art & preservation historian. The scheduling of the expert’s appearance & further availability was not handled well by the Chair. I got the impression the Chair really, really hoped the man would not testify further.

    The applicant’s expert testimony was the only testimony that was entered that the site was not historic. Dr. Bedford’s argument the site was not historic was based on Federal standards…not local or State. All very straight-forward.

    During the hearings last Fall, the Chair subsequently admits that the PB has no clear policy on allowing expert witnesses and he his making it up as he goes. Further, some screws up on what exhibits are formally entered, were they entered as part of testimony inappropriately, and that further, material historic facts came out after Dr. Bedford’s appearance. Sounds like Boeing.

    The Chair’s big mistake was not allowing expert rebuttal witnesses from out of State to speak to the testimony on interpreting the Federal standards. There seems no doubt that all sides accept the Federal standards. The Chair let his bias to maintain the same standards for the applicant and the public interested parties. That is not in doubt. Now, the Chair let his emotions dictate setting the rule on who can testify. If anyone wants to go back to his infamous tirade, the Township web site has the video. That tirade crystalized & compounded his central mistake. I’d also like to see someone from Lidl’s senior executive be subject to public questioning. This was just another silly, I don’t know my procedural stuff mistake. The list is a litany of by-law deficiencies and application of what is there. Maybe the jokers can spend some time criticizing themselves and clean up their house.

    So, I hope someone appeals and everyone can see how badly this process was managed.

    I personally don’t have confidence in the appeal process.

  10. And the HPC needs to get a backbone or stick to awareness and education objectives. This application wasn’t ready for them to hear the referral in Jan & Feb last year. They then mishandled it…a bully, or an authority figure shows up and they tend to fold like a tent.

    They should have told the Planning Board tough doo-doo, “we’re not reviewing this crap the Planning Dept passed along”. Then they should have told the applicant to get their act together because their application had absolutely no historic expert component. Yeah! The HPC has always been passive, Frank.

  11. Thats right Frank! Notice that I’m never allowed to be on any boards in Montclair…. LOL… only in other municipalities.

  12. Its a dramatic tragedy that the Fourth Ward is demolishing itself.

    I don’t disagree, but there is also a long-standing architectural and socio-economic bias to preservation in Montclair. For the 585 properties within the 5 historic districts on just the State/Federal registers (without a corresponding local designation), 80+% are above Park St. Of the Preservation Montclair listed properties within these same districts, 90+% are above Park St.

    We are now contemplating/studying:
    * creating 2 more local historic districts – the Estate HD and the Oakcroft HD
    * the Westward expansion of the Town Center HD
    All above Park St.

    Now review the 2005 3rd Town Center Eastward expansion – from Grove St down to the border with Glen Ridge. Let’s ignore the demolition of the train sheds which were part of the 2nd Eastward Expansion. Preservation Montclair listed just 2 properties of 20 (I excluded the properties that were part of the former Urban Renewal zoning).

    An architectural bias towards larger, more expensive structures explains a lack of diversity. However, it doesn’t fully account for the disproportionately low number below Park St. HP should protect cultural sites – even if the architecture is a less than spectacular, too.

    We should be aware of this in how/where we prioritize our preservation education and protections effort.

  13. I totally understand both sides regarding Lackawanna Plaza. What have yet to see is the group or anyone come up with suggestion on what kind of profitable project would be acceptable for retailing as the main theme for this area. Right now and even when the Pathmark was there it was an eye sore with enough crime as you know. It’s what is called a White Elephant (vacant) and a complete run down that can be a livelihood for certain businesses. I come from with a background in retail development for both IHOP and Applebee’s Restaurants including 40 years in retailing so I know what happens from the planning process start to finish

  14. kody,

    Retail? What are you talking about?

    I think you haven’t read the Planning Board’s resolution on the project’s approval. Retail was never the driver of this project. You should read the resolution.

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