Union Depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Canaan Station, formally known as Union Depot, located at 1 Railroad Plaza, was built by the Housatonic and Connecticut Western Railroads in 1872. There are two long wings at right angles to each other, each on a different railroad line. Each wing is ninety feet long, has spacious platforms, and a wide, protective roof. The building is two stories high, and at the southwestern corner, which forms the junction of the two railroads, is a large tower, with rooms for the accommodation of the telegraph operators. The second story has several rooms, once suitable for family occupation. In one of the larger of these rooms is a semi-circular counter, twenty feet long, designed for a lunch-room or "Twenty minutes for dinner."
The exterior has board and batten siding. The roofs of the wings are low hipped, and each has a chimney, indicating the comfort once available. Graceful arches top the large sliding doors on the first level and the numerous windows on the second. The eaves extend more than a foot and have brackets and drops, neatly finishing the roof line. Windows are of many sizes; mostly they are double-hung and round-headed, of 4/4 or 5/6 sash on the second level, and 6/6, 4/4, or 6/3 on the first. Also on the first level are little round windows with 4 panes, and over the larger waiting room doors are 3-pane lights, slightly arched.
The Canaan Union Depot Railroad Station is now (1971) unused, except for a small amount of freight traffic, but it has remained untouched. The old benches with curved backs and the ticket window are still there. The interior is closed, with only a few rooms on the south side occupied. Some space is rented to a grain company and to REA; neither of these uses is detrimental to the building.
North Canaan, although a small town, was an important town to railroads, for it came at the junction of the Connecticut Western Railroad and the Housatonic Railroad; these were later known, respectively, as the Central New England, which ran from Hartford to Poughkeepsie, and the Berkshire Division of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, now the Penn Central.
An article in Canaan's newspaper, "Connecticut Western News," on December 6, 1872, said of the station: "The new Union Depot was completed on December 2, 1872. It is a grand structure indeed...The depot, so complete and elegant in every feature, was designed by Chief Engineer Shunk. The carpentry was under the supervision of G.H. Bundy of Lakeville, a general contractor, cabinetmaker, and maker of coffins. The masonry was done by Kilmer, of Canaan." The station is done in a "Victorian" style, but it is not typical of the usual "Victorian" depots, so commonly built at this time, as the railroads were booming. The Canaan Union Depot Railroad Station is distinctive for its graceful lines, the interesting and well-integrated tower, and, of course, its size. The town was very proud of its new station. Wonderful apple pies were baked there and sold to passengers by Maggie Reilly, who became famous in the early 1900's as a result of the praise of Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink, the German opera star. James B. Rutledge, now in his 80's, still owns the Canfield Inn, across the street from the station. He recently recalled the stops made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his way home to Hyde Park.
Passenger service was discontinued in April, 1971. Since then only freight has gone through Canaan. There is much interest in restoring the old station; it would be a wonderful terminus for excursion trips to the Berkshires and surrounding foothills. A museum and library containing railroad and industrial exhibits is one of the prime interests of those concerned with future use of Union Depot. The opportunity for the town to purchase the building from Penn Central was rejected (November 4, 1971), without prejudice; both sides are negotiating (December, 1971).
Hartford Times, Saturday, July 29, 1967.
Hartford Times, Thursday, May 6, 1971, p.1B.
Notepaper featuring the railroad station at North Canaan, printed by the Connecticut Railroad Historical Association, Inc.
† Susan Babbitt, Connecticut Historical Commission, Union Depot, North Canaan, Connecticut, nomination document, 1972, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.