New Rochelle, NY (NRO)
Located on the north shore of Long Island Sound, the town is a sought-after New York suburb made easily accessible via Amtrak, Metro-North trains and Bee-Line bus routes.
1 Railroad Plaza
New Rochelle, NY 10801
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 87,510
- Facility Ownership: City of New Rochelle
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of New Rochelle
- Platform Ownership: MTA Metro-North Railroad
- Track Ownership: MTA Metro-North Railroad
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Located on the north shore of Long Island Sound and a dozen miles northeast of New York City, New Rochelle is a sought-after suburb that is easily accessible from midtown Manhattan via Amtrak intercity passenger and Metro-North commuter rail services. The station is also a stop on numerous Bee-Line bus system routes covering greater Westchester County. Opened to the public in 1887, the station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the centerpiece of the city’s multimodal transportation center.
Constructed by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, commonly referred to as the “New Haven,” the station has many features typical of late 19th century depots. The one-and-a-half storey brick structure is crowned with a simple gabled roof, and the present paint scheme emphasizes the base with a dark brown color while the upper walls are coated in a light tan. Although the main waiting room has high ceilings, the attic was also spacious enough to accommodate office space if needed. Originally, the waiting room had long windows that allowed ample sunlight to flood the interior, but parts of the openings were later bricked up and smaller, more standard windows were installed. Upstairs, natural light entered through the sets of five dormers placed on either slope of the roof.
The two central dormers are actually extensions of canted, three-sided bays that break through the roofline, thus drawing the eye to the middle of the east and west facades; this vertical thrust against the overall horizontal orientation of the building creates an interesting visual tension. Through the windows of the west bay, the station master had a perfect spot from which to monitor rail traffic as it moved along the line.
Stylized pilasters impose a regular rhythm of bays onto the exterior. From each pilaster springs a large bracket to support the wide canopy which wraps around the building and protects passengers from inclement weather while they wait outside for the arrival of the train. Studying historical images, one notices that in an otherwise sturdy but utilitarian structure, the anonymous architect did concede to a few select instances of fashionable and ostentatious ornamentation. Bargeboard was fitted into the gabled ends of the depot and secured by brackets; its cut-out patterns were both intricate and mesmerizing. Along the ridgelines of the roof and the dormers, decorative cresting, or fencing, was used to draw the eye upward. At some point in the last century, the former was replaced with standard latticework and the latter was removed altogether.
Inside, the waiting room finishes were in line with other depots constructed by the New Haven. The lower portion of the walls was clad in bead board wainscoting that was not only easy to clean and maintain, but also durable enough to endure the endless caresses of passengers as they passed through the building. Upper areas of the walls that were generally out of reach were covered in a fine coat of plaster that could be periodically painted and made to look like new. Although the station originally had wood floors, they were later replaced with terrazzo, a hard and robust material composed of marble chips.
After a generation of use, the station was renovated in the early 1930s. New technologies were installed, such as a steam heater that replaced the original coal-burning stoves. By the 1950s, there were calls for a new and more modern facility, but it never materialized. Following the Great Depression and the stresses of the World War II years, many railroads were in poor financial condition. They faced challenges from new modes of transportation such as the personal automobile and the jet plane whose key support infrastructure—highways and airports—was generously funded through federal programs. The New Haven went bankrupt and in 1969 it was absorbed into Penn Central, which soon descended into insolvency too. Against this background, the New Haven sold the New Rochelle station to a private developer that reconfigured the interior for office and commercial space. Over the next decade, the building deteriorated and in 1982 the city stepped in and purchased the property.
Improvement plans were floated, but not much came of them until Amtrak relocated its stop from Rye to New Rochelle in 1987. Just as the city and Amtrak were coming to an agreement on how to fund the depot’s rehabilitation, it caught fire in 1988. Although the blaze destroyed much of the roof and all but the central dormer on the western slope, it did call attention to the station’s deteriorated state and added urgency to the renovation efforts. A half-a-million dollar rehabilitation followed under the direction of local architect Melvin Beacher, and in 1991, the station was reopened to the traveling public.
Mindful of the building’s past, the project team consulted historic photographs and other resources to recreate missing features. The small windows that had been inserted during an earlier renovation were replaced with longer versions that more closely matched the originals. Interior woodwork was cleaned and repaired, and the ticket desk was restored. New heating and electrical systems, restrooms, and flooring were installed, and the exterior was painted. Along the platform, poorly constructed cinderblock additions that had housed commercial tenants were removed, once again allowing views from the waiting room out to the platforms.
North of the station, a large commuter parking garage opened in 2004. It originally contained space on the ground floor for intercity bus providers, but after a few years of occupancy, those companies relocated to a nearby site. Funding for the garage included approximately $5.5 million obtained through the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities Program, as well as $435,500 granted to the city by the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program.
Early European colonial settlements in the New York City area are usually associated with the Dutch, but New Rochelle stands out as a community founded for French refugees driven from their mother country due to religious persecution. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked by French King Louis XIV. Originally promulgated by his predecessor King Henry IV in 1598, it had given French Calvinist Protestants—known as Huguenots—rights and protections in an overwhelmingly Catholic nation.
The Reformation of the early 16th century had shaken European Christianity and created animosities between rival sects. The Edict was meant to quell some of these tensions within France. When the revocation was made official, a group of Huguenots from the city of La Rochelle began to investigate the possibility of migrating to the New World. Leaders contacted Governor Jacob Leisler of New York about purchasing a tract of land near New York City. He in turn entered into negotiations with John Pell, Lord of Pelham Manor, who owned more than 9,000 acres of land stretching from the present day Bronx to the shores of Long Island Sound.
In 1689, Pell finalized the sale of 6,000 acres to the Huguenots for the price of 1,675 pounds sterling; in addition, according to old feudal custom, the settlers were to provide Pell with a fat calf each June. As a sign of benevolence, Pell also gifted the settlers an additional 100 acres to support their church. The first families landed at what is now Hudson Park in 1688, and called their city “La Nouvelle Rochelle,” or “New Rochelle” in recognition of the home they had left behind.
These early events are brought to life through two colorful and engaging oil-on-canvas murals installed in 1940 in the Art Moderne post office near the train station. Completed by artist David Hutchinson, they are in line with other Depression-era public artworks commissioned by the federal government to celebrate local heritage. The largest piece—unusual for its 33 foot length and irregular outline—is located in the lobby and depicts the Huguenot settlers constructing cabins and setting the foundation of their town. A smaller mural shows John Pell accepting payment for his land.
By 1712, New Rochelle counted approximately 300 residents; eighty years later, that number had only risen to about 700 persons. Most people pursued agriculture, and tidal mills were built along the shoreline to process grain. The town also benefited from its location along the path of the main overland route between New York City and Boston. Throughout those first decades, the settlement attracted other French immigrants and the mother tongue remained in use well into the 18th century. Although the Revolutionary War played out in nearby White Plains and New York City, New Rochelle escaped major damage.
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 ensured that New York City would control the Midwestern grain trade, thus cementing its position as the nation’s principal economic center and international port. The growth of the city made the quiet of nearby villages such as New Rochelle attractive to wealthy merchants and others with the means to own secondary country homes. New York’s influence over the immediate region was facilitated by the growth of railroads, which spread out in every direction and continued to grow through the rest of the century. The resulting web of rail lines allowed for the easy distribution of goods and the quick movement of people.
Long Island Sound’s northern coast contained many of the country’s oldest cities, but its terrain proved a trial for railroad builders since it was marked by numerous streams and rivers that would have to be bridged. The challenge was not undertaken until the New York and New Haven Railroad (NY&NH) was chartered in 1844; by 1849, the line had opened between the two named endpoints, with access over the New York and Harlem Railroad into eastern Manhattan. Steamboats also plied the coast, but the railroad proved a faster option and waterborne travel lessened.
A picturesque station was erected where the North Avenue Bridge now crosses the tracks. Clothed in vertical board and batten siding, it had a steeply pitched gabled roof with cross gables. Deep, overhanging eaves that sheltered passengers were trimmed in delicate Gothic-inspired tracery, and intricate finials marked the ridgelines of the various gables. A roundhouse and other railroad structures were erected north of the depot near Cedar Street. The station became the focus of a new downtown retail district since many people, especially commuters, passed through the area on a daily basis.
In 1872 the NY&NH merged with the Hartford and New Haven Railroad to form the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, more commonly referred to as the “New Haven.” It quickly became the dominant freight and passenger line in southern New England, absorbing smaller railroads in order to control the route linking Boston and New York City. In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of investors headed by J.P. Morgan gained control of the New Haven, and went on a buying spree to acquire steamship lines and trolley companies in an effort to completely monopolize regional transportation. Electrification of the main line between New York and New Haven also took place since it was busy with both through and commuter trains. By the 1920s, the New Haven had more than 2,000 miles in its portfolio and it was estimated that it carried 10 percent of American passenger rail traffic.
The railroad greatly reduced the temporal and psychological distances between town and country so that New Rochelle cultivated identities as a popular seaside resort and a far suburb of New York City. Hotels with water views were constructed along the shore, and many advertised days filled with lawn tennis, horse-back riding, boating, sea-bathing, fishing, and other pleasurable activities. Large estates and handsome cottages were erected for those who summered in the area for weeks or months; in time, many became year-round residences.
Day trips could also be made. One of the more fashionable spots was family-friendly Glen Island, located south of downtown. Developed by John Starin, it included themed fantasy islets such as “Little Germany” with roving Tyrolean singers and “New Venice,” all connected via causeways. In the museum of natural history, visitors gasped at the sight of a large stuffed whale, while the nearby aviary contained almost 1,000 bird varieties. Above the treetops rose the crenellated towers of a dark and mysterious castle that seemed plucked from the hills overlooking the Rhine: it was home to a biergarten that swirled with activity on late summer evenings.
Among the visitors to Glen Island were famed writer Washington Irving, Swedish singer Jenny Lind, and Presidents Grant and Garfield. Sold to the city in the 1920s, the spaces between the islets were filled to make one large island that is now a public park best known for its beach. For those who look, whimsical remnants such as cannons, stone towers, and sculptures remain in place, ready to tell their stories to those patient enough to listen.
Just east of Glen Island, the Army once occupied David’s Island. Now public parkland, it began its military career during the Civil War as a hospital center for wounded Union troops and Confederate prisoners. Once that conflict came to a close, the island was a coastal artillery defense post and recruit center called Fort Slocum. During the First World War, more than 140,000 recruits passed through the fort on their way to France. Deactivated in 1965, the island is presently home to sea turtles, ospreys, and other animals.
As New York grew more crowded in the late 19th century, some urbanites sought solace in a suburban lifestyle that offered peace, quiet and an opportunity to reconnect with nature. Just north of the depot and within walking distance, a neighborhood called Rochelle Park was laid out in the 1880s. Large and spacious building lots created a park-like setting that transported residents away from the stresses of business life and other obligations. Common areas encouraged residents to socialize and form a tight knit community. Restrictions on the base cost of new houses meant that only those in the upper middle class and above could afford to live among its shady and picturesque streets, ensuring an air of exclusivity.
Rochelle Park was designed by landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett, who had earlier created the plan for Pullman, Illinois, a model company town financed by George Pullman to accommodate his railroad car factory and its workers. Barrett had also worked on landscaping for stations constructed by the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Rochelle Park set a high standard emulated by regional developers for years to come.
The city’s population quadrupled in the first decades of the 20th century, and New Rochelle became one of the nation’s wealthiest municipalities. In the 1910s and 1920s, the city directory read like a who’s who of the New York art world, and included painters, playwrights, novelists, and sculptors. Especially well-known were artists and commercial illustrators J.C. Leyendecker, Frederic Remington, and Norman Rockwell. Their images graced the covers of thousands of magazines, advertisements, and books, and their names entered common parlance.
Signs of their presence are still visible—literally. In the 1920s, local artists created a series of ten signs to mark the town’s boundaries. Each one has a sculptural component that reveals some aspect of New Rochelle’s history as seen through the eyes of the artist: the arrival of the Huguenots’ ship, a coach trundling down the Boston Post Road, et cetera. Visitors young and old still delight in a mural completed by Norman Rockwell for the public library. Featuring a boy and girl laying on the floor, feet in the air, poring over books, the background shows their imaginations at work, filled with characters from famous stories including Mother Goose and Alice of Wonderland fame.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station.
- 200 Short Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk