South Main and Salisbury Streets Depot Square Randolph, VT 05060
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Parking Lot Ownership||Depot Square Partners|
|Platform Ownership||New England Central Railroad (NECR)|
|Track Ownership||New England Central Railroad (NECR)|
|Accessible Platform||Dedicated Parking||Long Term Parking Spaces|
|Short Term Parking Spaces||Wheelchair Lift|
(301) 564-5760 (ph)
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Located near the geographic center of Vermont, Randolph is an important intermodal transportation hub. The Amtrak platform is adjacent to the headquarters of Stagecoach Transportation Services, a regional bus provider that links more than 30 towns in four counties.
For more than a century, Randolph was a stop on the Central Vermont Railroad, whose predecessor, the Vermont Central Railroad, was chartered by the state in 1843 to construct a line from the Connecticut River in the east to Lake Champlain in the west. Soon after the rails passed through Randolph in 1848, the railroad constructed a simple rectangular wood station on the north side of the tracks. Typical of depots built in the mid-19th century, it is covered in clapboard and features a gabled roof with generous overhangs to protect passengers from inclement weather, especially the snows of winter. The end of each overhang is supported by brackets and the gables sport kingpost trusses with decorative finials.
Randolph’s growth was evident by the erection of a new passenger depot in the late 1870s. Rather than wood construction, the replacement was of brick, connoting strength and permanence. Designed in the then popular Queen Anne style, the two story building sports a gabled roof with kingpost trusses, possibly in reference to the original depot. Elaborate corbelling at the cornice line continues up into the gables and displays the mastery of the bricklayer over his material. The first floor is punctuated by segmented arch windows with decorative hoods and sills, while the gables contain small paired round-arch windows that let light into the attic. A separate baggage building stood to the west of the depot, and was connected to it by a covered walkway.
The trackside and street facades of the depot both contain three sided canted bays that add variation to the station’s otherwise plain rectangular volume. The bay facing the tracks projects out onto the platform, and its three windows provided the station master with views out onto the right-of-way so that he could monitor traffic along the line. Its counterpart facing Depot Square is capped by an octagonal mansard roof with a dormer window. Historic photographs reveal that the tower’s roof was once covered in polychrome slate laid in a zigzag pattern; rich veins of the stone were found in abundance in western Vermont. The tower’s design clearly references then-popular French Second Empire aesthetics, also evident in the delicate, decorative wrought-iron fence that ran along the ridge line of the depot’s roof. At a later date, the town purchased a clock and had it installed in the tower where it could be viewed from Depot Square. The station remained active until 1966 when passenger service ended in much of the upper Connecticut River Valley.
When the new passenger depot was erected, the old station was moved across the tracks to serve as a freight house. The arrival of the trains would usher in periods of great activity as parcels and crates were moved between the cars and the storeroom. With the end of passenger service in 1966, the freight house fell into disuse until the 1990s when town officials began to advocate for a stop on the Vermonter, which at the time bypassed Randolph. Successfully petitioning the state and Amtrak for the stop, the town finally achieved its goal based on a promise to construct and maintain a passenger platform.
Concurrent with the town’s effort to restore rail service, the board of Stagecoach was searching for a new headquarters building to accommodate increased staff. Exploring potential sites, the board finally decided on the old freight house, reasoning that its central location and proximity to a potential Amtrak stop would help attract a greater number of riders. The Vermont Agency of Transportation backed the idea, viewing the rehabilitation of the abandoned historic building as an economic boost that might encourage the redevelopment of Randolph’s downtown.
Stagecoach secured federal and local funding to renovate the freight house. With these funds in place, town officials decided to build the Amtrak platform between the building and the tracks to create a true intermodal center. Momentum from the station project encouraged Randolph to apply for $200,000 in Transportation Enhancement funds from the Federal Highway Administration, to which the town contributed a $50,000 match. The money was used to renew the downtown core, known as Depot Square, which received new water and sewer lines, sidewalks, streetscaping, lighting, and parking. Amtrak began serving Randolph in 1996, and the next year the rehabilitation of the freight house was completed and celebrated with a grand opening party in September.
When European explorers first visited what is now eastern Vermont, it was primarily inhabited by the Abenaki American Indians who belonged to the Algonquian language family. Unlike portions of the New England coast, Vermont was difficult to access due to mountain ranges and thick forests. Many scholars believe that it was not densely settled and was instead used as a seasonal hunting ground by various tribes. Vermont remained beyond the sphere of European colonists well into the mid-18th century and acted as a buffer zone between the French towns of southern Canada and the English settlements of coastal New England. The region only became attractive to a greater number of English colonists after the British defeated the French in 1760 and gained permanent control of Canada.
Vermont did not come into existence as a separate entity—an independent republic—until 1777, and until then the land was heavily disputed by New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. As early as the 1730s, hunters and traders explored the area, but settlement was not forthcoming. By the 1760s, Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire began chartering numerous towns throughout Vermont, leading to complaints from the government of the New York colony. Wentworth was especially interested in the region due to its stands of timber which could be used in boat building, a lucrative industry on the New Hampshire coast. Trees such as white pines were highly valued for ship components such as masts.
Under Wentworth’s governorship, Randolph, then referred to as “Middlesex,” was chartered but not permanently settled. In 1780, a group of residents from Hanover, N.H., petitioned Vermont to charter the town again. Vermont agreed to this action, but only after a search for the original proprietors turned up no leads. Chartered in 1781, the town was renamed in honor of Edmund Randolph, a lawyer who had served as aide-de-camp to General Washington, a member of Congress, a delegate from Virginia to the Constitutional Convention, and secretary of state. Randolph was not a Vermonter, but it is surmised that the town was given his surname in an effort to help win Vermont statehood within the United States, which was granted in 1791.
Two years after receiving the charter, the town of Randolph was organized, and consisted of three villages: East, Center, and West. The area known today as simply “Randolph” was in fact originally the West Village. It was located between the second and third branches of the White River, which flowed roughly 30 miles to the southeast where it entered the Connecticut River at White River Junction. The Connecticut was a major north-south transportation route through New England that moved both people and freight, especially after a series of navigational improvements were made at the turn of the 19th century. Access to waterpower at West Randolph allowed for the establishment of grist and saw mills, respectively producing refined grain and finished wood. With these two businesses in place—essential for the growth of any frontier community—additional settlers were attracted to the community.
Although West Randolph prospered, it was considered the least important of the three villages. East Randolph contained the largest concentration of businesses and workshops, while Randolph Center held the meeting house, a place for both worship and civic affairs. The arrival of the railroad in 1848 dramatically altered this order, transforming West Randolph into the commercial and transportation center for the surrounding area. Its dominance was officially confirmed in 1895 when the Post Office Department—a body of the federal government—designated West Randolph as “Randolph,” thereby elevating it above the other villages.
The Vermont Central Railroad eventually completed a rail network that linked the state with the important international ports of Boston and New York City, as well as Montreal in Quebec. An overland trip between nearby White River Junction and Boston had taken six days in 1840, but the railroads cut that down to a relatively short 15 hours. In 1872 the Vermont Central was reorganized as the Central Vermont Railroad, which later came under the control of Canadian National Railways.
The tracks created a highly visible boundary in Randolph between the commercial district to the north and the residential neighborhoods to the south. Improved shipping rates and times led to the construction of new factories in Randolph that produced goods such as farm implements, rubber stamps and furniture. By the end of the 19th century, Vermont had developed an extensive dairy industry that produced milk, butter and cheese sought after in markets as far away as Boston. In response, creameries and packing plants were established at Randolph so that the milk could be processed, bottled, and quickly shipped to market.
Within a generation, the streets around the depot were transformed into a bustling business and cultural district. Developments such as the DuBois and Gay Block east of the station housed stores on the street level and offices above. Further up Main Street, the Kimball Public Library was constructed with funds donated by a Randolph native who had found success as a financier in New York City. Next door, the Chandler Music Hall was established in 1907 through the generosity of another resident. In the age before radio and film, the hall was the primary entertainment venue in the region, and it hosted a full roster of musical performances, plays, and operas. The large auditorium was also used for political rallies and school sponsored events. Reinvigorated in the 1970s through the work of a dedicated group of volunteers, the Chandler once again shines brightly as a beacon for the performing arts in the White River Valley.
After a series of devastating fires in the early 1990s that destroyed downtown landmarks such as the Dubois and Gay Block, Randolph residents began to discuss and chart a new course for their community. The arrival of the railroad and the construction of the depot had been central to the town’s growth and prosperity in the 19th century, and the station again played a pivotal role in the revitalization of the downtown at the close of the 20th century. Various owners replaced the roof, restored the buckled floors, uncovered obscured architectural details, painted the exterior, and reconstructed a portion of the canopy that had once circled the building. Converted into commercial space, the station is the anchor of downtown and a well-known landmark.
In late spring, Vermont’s agricultural past, present, and future is explored during the Fiddlehead Festival. The event opens with a “tractorcade,” a parade of farmers riding into town on their tractors. Later in the day, the farmers form teams to compete in a tractor obstacle course in pursuit of the coveted festival trophy. Aside from the fun and games, popular workshops emphasize organic farming and healthy cooking. A parade and street fest replete with good food, arts and crafts booths, and kids’ activities mark Randolph’s multi-day celebration of the nation’s birthday in July. Every year, event organizers choose a different theme for the parade, ensuring that the floats remain fresh and fanciful.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station which is served by two daily trains. The Vermonter is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.