1 Columbus Avenue Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center Pittsfield, MA 01201
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Facility Ownership||Berkshire Regional Transit Authority|
|Parking Lot Ownership||City of Pittsfield|
|5 Short Term Parking Spaces||Accessible Platform||Dedicated Parking|
|Enclosed Waiting Area||Wheelchair Lift|
- Lake Shore Limited
(301) 564-5760 (ph)
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Amtrak serves Pittsfield at the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC), which was named for the former State Representative and former Pittsfield city council member. Opened in 2004, this modern glass and brick facility provides a waiting area for passengers, who then descend to track level to board their trains. The ITC provides connections to Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) buses and Peter Pan/Bonanza intercity buses, and provides direct pedestrian access to the city’s central business district in downtown Pittsfield as well. BRTA offices are located in the facility as are retail concession and office tenants.
The building of the ITC mirrors the progress from rail as an essential mode of passenger transportation to its decline and eventual return as a focus of transportation-oriented development. Pittsfield’s Union Station was built in 1914 for $300,000 along what later became one of the New York Central (NYC) Railroad’s rail lines, replacing an earlier station. At the time, the completed building was much admired: it was built in the Beaux Arts style, with tall arched windows, green-veined marble walls, a high-domed terrazzo ceiling, skylight, chandeliers and polished woodwork—a work for the ages. A mosaic reproduction of the Pittsfield city seal was imbedded in the main entrance’s floor to greet visitors, and a restaurant served as a place of respite.
By the 1950s, as railroads all over New England were financially squeezed due to declining ridership coupled with regulations requiring them to preserve passenger service, reducing maintenance of passenger stations was deemed a way to rescue their revenue. Years of declining use and growing neglect took their toll on Pittsfield’s Union Station. New York Central offered to sell the station to Pittsfield for a city hall in 1956, but the city felt it was poorly suited for that purpose and declined the offer.
Mr. Scelsi was looking for ways to preserve the station for the city, but public interest flagged at that time. Over his objections, in 1965 the city council allowed the NYC to construct a new passenger facility away from the downtown area, closer to manufacturing facilities, as the NYC was reporting very few passengers by then. By 1966, although some citizens wanted to save the station, restoring it was no longer economically feasible due to its deteriorated state and growing structural deficiencies. Thus, in 1968, the wrecking ball came to Pittsfield Union Station. Even then, there were scattered efforts to preserve fragments of the building, variously successful.
During the 1990s, federal policies aimed at boosting the integration of transportation services allowed the city to consider creating a new mixed-use center, such as the ones being built in other cities in the state. In March 2000, thirty-two years after their Union Station had been torn down in the name of urban renewal, plans began to move ahead to create a new transportation center downtown close to where the old station had been. The expected cost was $14 million.
Diane Smith, BRTA administrator from 1993 until 1999, became an active catalyst to advance this project, which had been in initial stages since the 1980s. Much of the credit for securing funds for the project goes to Congressman John W. Olver, who found $8 million in federal earmarks to launch the project, and another $615,000 to cover a budget deficit. These funds provided 80 percent of costs and required a 20 percent local match by the state, and the final cost was $11 million.
On November 22, 2004, the city opened the new ITC, hailing it as a catalyst for economic development during a ceremony attended by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, Congressman Olver, and Mayors James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield and John Barrett III of North Adams. Representatives from the state Executive Office of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration also attended, as did former Congressman Scelsi. Speakers made note of a similar development going on in nearby Brockton.
That opening day, Kennedy and Olver placed the last two bricks in one of the new station’s columns on the Columbus Avenue side of the building—two bricks saved from the original station, coming full circle—and rail service thus moved to the new station. Since the institution of the Lake Shore Limited, Amtrak had been serving passengers from a shelter on a platform a short distance away from the new station’s platform. With the new station they now enjoyed a new waiting room with an elevator and wheelchair lift on the platform.
Pittsfield lies in the valley of the Housatonic River, between its eastern and western branches, surrounded by the Berkshire Hills on the east and the Taconic Range to the west. In 1738, a Bostonian, Colonel Jacob Wendell, purchased the land referred to then as Pontoosuc (“haven for winter deer”) as a speculative investment. The conflicts during the French and Indian Wars precluded permanent occupation until 1752, when settlers from Westfield came to found a plantation. Although primarily an agricultural area, Pittsfield expanded and incorporated as a town in 1761. The streams feeding the Housatonic made milling possible, and after the introduction of Merino sheep from Spain in 1807, the production of woolens dominated the local economy for a century afterward.
In 1891, Pittsfield was incorporated as a city. The same year, William Stanley relocated his Electric Manufacturing Company to Pittsfield and produced the first electric transformer. Stanley’s company was a predecessor to General Electric, and GE’s success fostered employment of as many as 13,000 at one time. GE Advanced Materials is still located in Pittsfield, although much reduced in size due to relocation of the company’s Space Division. The manufacturing of transformers had led to serious contamination of the Housatonic, which has since been cleaned up by GE and the city in a monumental and successful effort. With environmental cleanup and downtown revitalization, Pittsfield continues to reinvent itself as a cultural center for the region, now encouraging the arts in addition to industries.
Pittsfield, the geographical and commercial hub of the Berkshires as well as the Berkshire County seat, is surrounded by historical and cultural institutions such as Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and location of author Edith Wharton's estate, The Mount. Pittsfield itself was the home of American Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The city can also claim as its own the 1903 gilded-age theater, the Colonial, and the Berkshire Museum, also founded in 1903 by the heir of the founder of the Crane Paper Company.
Of the many cultural resources in the area, one of the best-loved is the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge, which was founded in 1967. Fans of Rockwell’s very moving illustrations will find a professional collection and presentation of the premier American illustrator’s life’s work—the official digitizing of thousands of items from the Rockwell archives should be completed by 2011. Even more groundbreaking will be the museum’s founding of the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, which will be the first research institute in the country to focus on illustration art.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at its unstaffed Pittsfield station, which is served by two daily trains.