Greenfield, MA (GFD)
The strikingly contemporary John W. Olver Transit Center was the first net-zero facility of its kind in the country. Main Street shops and restaurants are a short walk away.
12 Olive Street
John W. Olver Transit Center
Greenfield, MA 01301
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 5,920
- Facility Ownership: MassDOT
- Parking Lot Ownership: Franklin Regional Transit Authority
- Platform Ownership: MassDOT
- Track Ownership: MassDOT
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Amtrak service to Greenfield began on December 29, 2014, when the southbound Vermonter made its first scheduled stop. The station consists of a temporary wooden platform that will later be replaced with a concrete platform. It is located at the John W. Olver Transit Center and is within walking distance to the shops, restaurants and other businesses lining Main Street.
The contemporary transit center designed by Charles Rose Architects and Arup Engineers serves Franklin Regional Transit Authority and intercity bus routes. It also contains offices for the Franklin Regional Transit Authority and the Franklin Regional Council of Government. Passengers may take advantage of an indoor waiting room, restrooms, a small café and Wi-Fi.
When dedicated in May 2012, the 24,000 square foot structure was the first net-zero transit center in the country, meaning that it derives all of its renewable energy needs on site. It contains 7,300 square feet of photovoltaic panels, 22 geothermal wells and occupancy sensors to control lighting. The building is sited and designed to take advantage of natural heating from the sun and cooling from prevailing breezes. This is achieved by carefully managing the placement and surface area of doors, windows and other openings.
The façade is composed primarily of dark brown brick, native bluestone and copper paneling that will take on a green patina as it ages, thus creating a dynamic, changing surface. Patterned copper window screens and perforated brick walls allow natural light to flood the interiors while minimizing heat gain. Much of the second level is cantilevered and appears to float over the first level due to glass walls on the ground floor. The effect is further heightened by the strong horizontal orientation of the upper level, where a long band of windows slices through the vertical copper paneling.
Funded through a $12.8 million Federal Highway Administration flex funds grant distributed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the transit center takes the name of a former Congressman who served the people of western Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 until 2013.
The addition of Greenfield to the Amtrak national network was made possible by the rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line in Massachusetts, which parallels the famed river for 49 miles between Springfield and East Northfield, located just south of the border with Vermont. The Amtrak Montrealer(Washington-Montreal) used these tracks from 1972-1987, but later shifted its path eastward due to deteriorating track conditions. In spring 1995, the overnight Montrealer was replaced by the state-supported, daytime Vermonter(Washington-St. Albans, Vt.).
Rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line, owned by Pan Am Southern Railroad, was funded through an approximately $73 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program and $40 million in state funds. In late summer 2014, Massachusetts announced its intention to purchase the rail line.
Work included crosstie replacement, installation of continuously welded rail for a smoother ride, surfacing and alignment of track and improvements to signal and communications systems and switches. The state, regional planning organizations and Amtrak believe the project will ultimately produce a reduction in overall travel time for the Vermonter of approximately 25 minutes and improve on-time performance for the train.
When Europeans first explored the area in the early 17th century, they encountered groups of American Indians belonging to the Algonquian language family, including the Pocumtucks who cultivated the fertile soils and fished at Turners Falls a few miles north along the Connecticut River. The area that today makes up Greenfield was first settled in the 1680s by residents of nearby Deerfield.
Lots of eight acres were laid out along what is now Main Street; persons gained ownership of the land if they occupied the property for three years and paid the related taxes. Each settler also received 20 acres of farmland for agricultural use and grazing. Considered a frontier region well into the mid-18th century, western New England was subject to periods of conflict between American Indian groups and the increasing number of European settlers who pushed into outer areas. The fighting was further complicated by struggles between the French and English for dominance in Canada and the region beyond the Appalachian Mountains; both sought to gain American Indian groups as allies.
After nearly two decades of asking for separation from Deerfield, Greenfield was finally granted independence from its mother town in 1753. According to a colonial census undertaken in 1765, the settlement had grown to encompass 58 families, 368 individuals and 45 houses. By the start of the American Revolution, the population had doubled.
Following the war, Greenfield developed as an important commercial center like many other communities along the Connecticut River. Due to local topography, the town found itself at the crossing of important north-south and east-west trade routes that followed local waterways and new turnpikes. A port area known as Cheapside expanded near the confluence of the Deerfield and Green rivers, while a commercial core grew north on Main Street and included a tailor shop, blacksmith and store. The era’s prosperity was reflected in the construction of fine homes, such as the 1797 Leavitt-Hovey House designed by famed architect Asher Benjamin.
The rivers also provided waterpower that could be channeled to drive grist and saw mills. Greenfield’s first mill was established around 1699; a century later, new industrial concerns began to populate the Pioneer Valley. One of the earliest large scale manufacturing enterprises was a satinet mill built around 1825, although it was destroyed by fire three years later. In the succeeding years, John Russell established a manufacturing company to produce cast-iron socket chisels, soon followed by butcher and carving knives. By 1837, more than 70 people—including skilled German craftsmen—worked at the cutlery works, and the fine quality pieces gained a national reputation. In addition to Germans, immigrants from Ireland, Poland and French-speaking Canada came to Greenfield in pursuit of economic opportunity.
For industry to thrive, businesses needed faster, more efficient methods of transporting raw materials and finished goods. Greenfield’s first major rail link was provided by the Connecticut River Railroad (CNRR), which was created in 1845 through the merger of two lines intended to run along the river between Springfield and Greenfield. After service began at Greenfield in late 1846, a depot was erected where Prospect Street (then called Depot Street) meets the tracks.
The CNRR was extended further north into Vermont in 1849, and the stone arched bridge that carries Main Street over the tracks was built in 1848 as part of this project. The CNRR remained independent until 1893 when it was leased to the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M). Subsequently, it served as an important path for traffic between New York City and Montreal.
Railroad engineer Theodore Judah worked on the CNRR early in his career and married Anna Pierce of Greenfield in 1847. He would go on to earn great fame as the chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad (CP), tasked with building half of the first continental railroad between Omaha and Sacramento. Judah had long promoted the idea of a railroad across California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and made detailed surveys in 1861. He and CP backer Leland Stanford lobbied members of Congress to authorize the transcontinental line and support its construction through land grants and other financial incentives. Railroad aficionados can pay their respects at Judah’s grave in Greenfield’s Federal Street Cemetery.
In 1848, the Troy and Greenfield Railroad (T&G) chartered a line to run between Greenfield and Troy, N.Y., but its path was blocked by western Massachusetts’ Hoosac Range. Construction of a 4.75 mile tunnel through the mountains lasted from 1851 to 1874. Its opening was lauded as a great engineering achievement that allowed for the easy movement of rail traffic between New England and the growing Midwest.
Greenfield gained a connection to eastern Massachusetts in 1850 when a branch of the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad (V&M) was built from nearby Miller’s Falls. Both the T&G and V&M later came under the control of the Fitchburg Railroad, whose united network ran across northern Massachusetts and into New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. In 1900, the Fitchburg was leased to the B&M. As rail traffic became central to Greenfield’s economy, Cheapside lost its prominence as a river port.
The CNRR and T&G merged in downtown Greenfield where the John W. Olver Transit Center is located. A series of depots was constructed in the general vicinity. The last, a union station meant to serve both railroads, was erected in 1881; fourteen years later it was remodeled and expanded. Historic photographs show the main block facing north towards Main Street. A hipped roof, topped by a cupola with four clock faces and a spire, featured deep overhanging eaves along the platform to protect passengers from inclement weather. A canopy joined the main depot with a baggage building to the northwest. Inside, passengers found a large waiting room and restaurant.
On the site of the current transit center were a freight house, locomotive house and turntable. In the early 20th century, the B&M operated a major switchyard west of the depot, but it later moved south to Deerfield. New hotels in the area accommodated travelers who came to town on one of dozens of daily trains. The depot was demolished in 1966 and regularly-scheduled passenger rail service ended early the following year.
After the Civil War, Greenfield businesses dominated the tap and die industry in New England, which was a natural outgrowth from the town’s experience with cutlery production. In fact, John Russell’s nephew was a partner in one of the most prominent firms making machine parts and tools. After a period of competition, in which firms divided and merged, many of the businesses came together to form a conglomerate. Wartime caused demand for taps and dies and metal products, and Greenfield thus went through boom periods in the late 1910s and early 1940s. During World War II, Greenfield Tap and Die employed more than 4,000 people.
Good rail connections not only boosted manufacturing, but also strengthened the region’s agricultural sector. Franklin County, of which Greenfield is the seat, grew as a major beef and pork producer, along with related products like milk and butter.
With the patina of age, Greenfield has cultivated a reputation as an ideal New England community whose shops, festivals and townscapes attract tourists throughout the year. The town common, established in the colonial era, remains the heart of Greenfield. Since 1870 it has been presided over by the Civil War Memorial, a granite column surmounted by a bronze eagle, wings outstretched. At the old post office on the east end of Main Street, customers and art lovers enjoy a trio of bronze bas reliefs by Belgian-born artist Helene Sardeau. The central panel depicts a mother and child playing; flanking them are a man sowing grain and a woman harvesting fruits and vegetables.
Greenfield Energy Park on the site of the old B&M depot is a popular gathering spot throughout the year. It contains sustainable energy exhibits, herb and native plants gardens, public art and a bandstand whose form echoes that of the old depot—to include a cupola and spire. It is often the scene of free musical concerts, exercise classes, festivals and informal get-togethers. Rail aficionados gather at the bandstand to photograph and talk about passing trains. A restored B&M caboose functions as a museum and educational space for children.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at the Greenfield station, which is served by two daily trains. The Vermonter is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
- 10 Short Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Wheelchair Lift