Historic, majestic and thankfully preserved....
Today's 1929 built Reading Company North Broad Street Station sits obscured behind large trees planted by the City of Philadelphia.
A little history: facing competition from the impending completion of its fiercest competitor, the Pennsylvania Railroad and its new Broad Street Line, the Reading decided to replace its smaller Huntingdon Street station with a larger station - one that would rival the PRR's nearby North Philadelphia Station.. The station, designed by Horace Trumbauer, featured two island platforms which served all of Reading's four tracks, connected by an underground walkway to the station, street, and the Broad Street Line's North Philadelphia station. It's grand design reflected pre-Great Depression optimism and plans for redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. the Great Depression took away passengers and prevented the planned development, and the collapse of local industry after World War II further damaged the neighborhood. Ridership at the station, however, dwindled as passengers opted for private cars or the more frequent subway. The station building was closed and sold for use as a motel in the 1960s; passengers continued to access the platforms through the pedestrian tunnel. In 1981, the station was heavily damaged by fire. On April 5, 1992, SEPTA began their 18-month-long project called RailWorks, which included two multi-month shutdowns of the Reading mainline from Wayne Junction to Market East for emergency bridge repairs. As part of the project, North Broad Street Station was completely rebuilt. Within two weeks of the closure, demolition of the old platforms was under way. The rebuilt station now has two side platforms serving only the outer tracks, which were chosen to straighten the curved tracks around the former island platforms and thus allow higher speeds through the station for express trains. The pedestrian tunnel was closed and filled and access to the platforms is now via ramps from North Broad Street. The station, renamed as North Broad, reopened at the end of Railworks on September 5, 1993.
So what's a city like Philadelphia to do with such an historic and majestic station? A museum, maybe? Concert hall? Maybe a library? No - the option Philadelphia chose for this impressive structure was to convert it into 108 private housing units for people transitioning out of homeless shelters. I suppose that is when the trees went up.... Volunteers of America began an $8.3 million renovation to convert the structure the same date that SEPTA reopened it. The organization previously had used part of the first floor for adult rehabilitation and counseling programs, but the structure was so deteriorated that only 18% of the floor space was usable. Long gone is the beautiful open air lobby and any trace of the structure's history along with any signs of its previous use. The first residents moved into Station House Apartments in August 1997. Oh well - it's still standing.
Much earlier views of the station can be found here. Note the use of the billboard back in the day!