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Boston - North Station, MA (BON)

North End landmark and game-night hotspot, North Station is also the gateway, via the Amtrak Downeaster, to popular Mid-Coast Maine and Casco Bay.


Station Facts

Boston - North Station, MA Station Photo

Boston - North Station, Massachusetts

135 Causeway Street Under the TD Garden Boston, MA 02114

Station Hours

Annual Station Revenue (2013)
$7,223,603
Annual Station Ridership (2013)
475,447

Ownerships

Facility Ownership Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Parking Lot Ownership Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Platform Ownership Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Track Ownership Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

Features

ATM Accessible Payphones Accessible Platform
Accessible Restrooms Accessible Waiting Room Accessible Water Fountain
Dedicated Parking Enclosed Waiting Area High Platform
Long Term Parking Spaces Parking Attendant Pay Phones
Quik Trak Kiosk Restrooms Short Term Parking Spaces
Ticket Office

Routes Served

  • Downeaster

Contact

Bill Hollister
Regional Contact
governmentaffairsnyc@amtrak.com
(202) 906-3918 (ph)

Local Community Links:

Station History

Boston-North Station is one of three Amtrak stations located within the city of Boston. It only serves the Downeaster, which links Boston with Portland, Maine. During the fall, riders receive a dazzling show as the leaves outside their windows turn colors and produce a fleeting mosaic of rich oranges, yellows, golds, and reds. On portions of the journey, the train advocacy group TrainRiders/Northeast runs a host program in which volunteers assist customers on-board by doling out useful advice about the train and the stations and towns along the route.

Travelers wishing to ride Amtrak routes heading south or west of Boston—Acela Express, Northeast Regional, and the Lake Shore Limited—must use either the South or Back Bay stations. Furthermore, there is no connecting service between North Station and the other Amtrak locations, so passengers must use either the subway or a taxi. North Station is conveniently served by two subway lines and numerous commuter rail routes.

The current North Station is the third one by that name to occupy the northern edge of the Bulfinch Triangle in the North End neighborhood. Opened in 1995, the $100 million dollar complex is composed of a subterranean parking garage and ground-level rail station topped by a sports arena. Known as the TD Banknorth Garden, the stadium is home to Boston’s major league hockey, basketball, and lacrosse teams. The train tracks cross the Charles River parallel to Interstate 93 and proceed a few hundred feet south where they then enter the structure. Canopies extend out from this covered area to further protect passengers as they walk up and down the platform to find their car.

The stadium and station are contained in a modest rectangular building whose exterior is composed of a base of grey textured concrete masonry units upon which rise walls of precast concrete panels. Inside, the concourse is marked by bold signage, visible from a distance, in which each platform is announced by a large number contained within a circle. The passenger concourse, which was enlarged and renovated in 2006-2007 to better accommodate train and stadium foot traffic, also features cafes and seating areas.

The original North Station was built slightly south of the present version in 1893, and it fronted directly on Causeway Street. As a union station, it served a number of railroads and precluded the need for each company to continue to build and keep up its own passenger and maintenance facilities. The primary financier of North Station was the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) which traced its origins to the Andover and Wilmington Railroad, chartered in 1833 in Massachusetts. The company also gained charters in New Hampshire and Maine, and by 1842 the lines in each of those states was merged into one entity. Through a calculated campaign of acquisition and consolidation in the second half of the 19th century, the B&M purchased or leased more than 47 regional short lines and competitors to become the dominant railroad in the far Northeast.

Many of the railroads leading to Boston from the areas north and west of the city crossed the Charles River and built stations in the zone referred to as the Bulfinch Triangle. This bit of land, roughly bounded by Causeway, Washington, and Merrimac Streets, had originally been a wetland known as Mill Pond. Sometime in the early 18th century, a dam was built on the pond’s northern edge to harness the power of the tides in order to run mills located on its perimeter.

Boston grew into one of the young nation’s principle ports and cities and by the early nineteenth century a proposal was put forth by Charles Bulfinch to fill in the wetlands to accommodate new urban development. Bulfinch, an early American architect who had completed work on the state capitol in the 1790s, laid out a proposed grid of streets in 1808 for the landfill area and eventually it was referred to by his last name. Much of the soil that was dumped into the Mill Pond came from nearby Beacon Hill, then undergoing much new construction, and Copp’s Hill.

By the second half of the 19th century, four of the eight railroads entering Boston had erected depots in the Bulfinch Triangle. Along Causeway Street, the depots of the Boston and Lowell, Eastern, and Fitchburg railroads all stood in close proximity, and distinguished themselves from one another through differing architectural styles, including respectively the French Second Empire, Italianate, and Gothic Revival. Each depot featured at least one tower, a common design move in many Victorian-era stations. Those on the Fitchburg’s granite depot were crenellated and resembled a castle. Unlike its competitors, the B&M constructed its depot a few blocks south of Causeway Street on Haymarket Square. In keeping with the theme of creating individual identity, the depot was in the Greek Revival style and proudly displayed two-storey pilasters with elaborate capitals supporting a large pediment in whose center was a clock—an all important element for travelers trying to make a scheduled departure.

The B&M leased the Eastern in 1884, thereby gaining sole control over the Boston-Portland route. A lease on the Boston and Lowell was obtained three years later, giving the B&M access to trackage into Vermont and Quebec. With these two contracts in place, the railroad could undertake a Union Station in Boston to unite these services under one roof. The B&M chose the local design team of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge which had taken over Henry Hobson Richardson’s practice upon his death in 1886. After completing many of Richardson’s final commissions, the firm diversified its portfolio and became prominent in the American Renaissance. Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge worked on Stanford University in the late 1880s and became heavily involved in the planning of the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893.

To construct the new station, the old Eastern terminal was demolished, as was the B&M depot on Haymarket Square. The Fitchburg station remained standing to the east for another generation, as that railroad was not leased by the B&M until 1900. Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge gave the B&M an imposing neoclassical station whose façade was dominated by a large triumphal arch that bore witness to the railroad’s power. Inspired by Roman precedents, it featured a round arch with a coffered ceiling that was roughly two storeys high and flanked on each side by two columns with Ionic capitals that sat upon bases of rusticated stone. The stonework continued on the archway façade, but the rest of the building was faced with cheaper brick.

Arcaded wings six bays across spread out from the central arch and at their centers supported large clock faces. Sculptural medallions decorated the spandrels and were in the same color tone as the arch’s stonework and therefore provided unity across the principle façade. Beyond the arcades were the waiting rooms that received ample light from bands of clerestory windows; the concourse was similarly brightened by large skylights that dispelled the notion of dark and smoky train sheds so often associated with the era.

The first North Station only stood for three decades before it was torn down for a larger station that included an arena above the ground floor waiting room and concourse. This innovative design was based on Madison Square Garden in New York City and was put forward by boxing promoter Tex Rickard who had overseen the construction of the New York City facility. To make way for the building, the Fitchburg depot was demolished in 1927; interestingly, one of its crenellated towers was purchased by a Boston lawyer who erected it near the shore at Truro on Cape Cod. The story goes that famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind once sang from the tower to her adoring fans; some claim that on nights when the moon grows full, a melodious voice can be heard in the tower’s vicinity.

The new North Station and Boston Garden opened in 1928, and in keeping with the trends of the time, it was designed in the then-popular Art Deco style. Faced in buff brick, the Garden had two end pavilions with triangular parapets topped by tall spires. Between these pavilions, the façade was divided into seven bays, with each one dominated by a long rectangular, tripartite window framed by a decorative band of raised brickwork laid in a chevron pattern. The use of raised brickwork allowed a constant play of light and shadow across the façade that provided a sense of movement so essential to the Art Deco aesthetic. The brickwork reappeared in a zig-zag pattern at the ground floor segmented archways leading to the station areas, and at the cornice line. The Garden would host events of every kind over its seven decades, including sports games, political rallies, the circus and rodeo, musical concerts, and evangelical meetings. The station-arena complex closed in 1995 and was torn down in 1997 after the current TD Northbank Garden opened its doors.

Boston is one of the most storied cities in the United States, and its history is entwined with the nation’s origins. The Shawmut Peninsula, upon which the city is situated, was originally connected to the mainland by only a narrow neck of land, surrounded by Boston Harbor and the Back Bay, an estuary of the Charles River. The peninsula had been inhabited by American Indians as early as 7,500 years before the Euro-American settlers arrived. The first settlement on the peninsula, begun by William Blaxton in 1625, was called Trimountaine due to the presence of three hills (only an abbreviated Beacon Hill remains today). In 1630, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony signed an agreement with the English Crown and the Winthrop Fleet sailed to the New World, arriving in Boston by way of Salem and Charlestown. Trimountaine was renamed Boston on September 7, 1630 in honor of the town of Boston, Lincolnshire, from which many of the settlers came.

The city grew to be the largest settlement in the American Colonies and remained so until the 1760s. In the next decade, Boston played a primary role in the American Revolution against Great Britain. Boston was the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and battles such as Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. Thus, between revolutionary leaders coming from Boston and the citizen’s fight for rights, the city is sometimes styled the “Cradle of Liberty.”

In the19th century, the city became one of the world’s wealthiest international ports, exporting products such as rum, fish, salt, and tobacco. Boston also developed as a major manufacturing center noted for garment production, leather goods, and machinery. By the mid-19th century, manufacturing overtook international trade to dominate the local economy. The many local streams and rivers not only allowed easy shipment of goods inland, but also provided power for mills and factories.

For more than a century, the Bulfinch Triangle remained a vital section of Boston’s North End, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the United States that was settled by the city’s first residents in the 1630s. During the colonial period, it became a fashionable district with commercial ventures and wharves along the Charles River and the handsome abodes of upper class merchants and important civic buildings further inland. Two of the most famous structures remaining from this era are Old North Church and the home of Paul Revere. Most American school children recall Longfellow’s poem that reads: “Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch/Of the North Church tower, as a signal light,--/One, if by land, and two, if by sea.” It commemorates Revere’s hurried gallop to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of advancing British forces. Revere’s house, whose earliest parts date to about 1680, is now a museum dedicated to the silversmith and patriot.

The North End welcomed waves of Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants who gained their foothold in America on its narrow streets. Many of the old colonial houses were converted to apartments or torn down and replaced by tenements. Irish laborers changed the shape of the city, working on projects to fill in the Back Bay and to construct bridges, tunnels, and highways across the city. Salem Street became known as the heart of the Jewish community, lined with Kosher butchers, tailors, and food shops. The various Italians who arrived from all parts of the peninsula settled in clusters that reflected their regional origins. The North End is currently thought of as “Little Italy,” and is a destination for a good Italian meal. Religious processions still take place throughout the year based on Italian regional saints; the festivities welcome all into the fold.

During the mid-20th century craze for highways, the North End was physically cut off from the rest of Boston by the Central Artery, an elevated freeway that necessitated the bulldozing of the eastern half of the Bulfinch Triangle. In the 1990s, Boston began its “Big Dig” to bury the highway underground and reunite the North End to the revitalizing city. The highway’s path is still discernible through a series of popular parks and public spaces that have replaced the steel and concrete of old.

Today, the Boston area’s colleges and universities have a major impact on the city and the region’s economy, with students contributing an estimated $4.8 billion annually. Boston’s long-held reputation as the “Athens of America” derives largely from the teaching and research activities of more than 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area, such as Harvard, MIT, Boston College and the University of Massachusetts Boston. Tourism, healthcare, financial services, publishing, printing and four major convention centers also contribute to the economy, as well as its being the state capital and regional home of federal agencies.

The Downeaster is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northeastern New England passenger Rail Authority. Amtrak provides ticketing but not baggage services at the Boston-North Station, which is served by 10 daily trains.