Meriden, CT (MDN)
Meriden, whose name means "pleasant vale," is famous for its spring Daffodil Festival. The annual event includes music, amusement rides, parade and the crowning of a Little Miss Daffodil.
60 State Street
Meriden, CT 06450
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2022): 16,373
- Facility Ownership: State of Connecticut
- Parking Lot Ownership: State of Connecticut
- Platform Ownership: Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT)
- Track Ownership: Amtrak
A new red brick passenger facility opened in downtown Meriden in November 2017 as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Project, a partnership between the state of Connecticut, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration, as well as the states of Massachusetts and Vermont. This multi-year effort has aimed at creating new commuter and enhanced intercity passenger rail services benefiting the cities along the New Haven-Springfield rail line.
The $21 million station was built south of a depot that opened in 1970 and closed in 2016. Designed by Michael Baker Engineering, the modern facility includes high-level, accessible platforms, an overhead pedestrian bridge with elevators, canopies to shelter customers from inclement weather, automatic snow melting systems and a passenger information display system. Easily accessed on foot, the station also has electric vehicle charging, bicycle racks and ample parking.
In addition to Amtrak, Meriden is served by CTrail Hartford Line commuter trains between New Haven and Springfield. The latter service launched in June 2018 and was made possible through the NHHS Rail Project. CTrail Hartford Line trains complement Amtrak service to offer travelers greater flexibility and choice. Meriden station also offers connections to local CTtransit buses.
Overall, the NHHS Rail Project has included improvements to track and signal systems, upgrades to bridges, culverts and at-grade crossings, installation of a second track, and renovation or construction of stations. As of early 2018, the estimated $1.2 billion program had received $564 million in state funding and $205 million through federal sources, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Connecticut intends to seek additional federal and state funding for future program phases.
Towns such as Meriden have worked to enhance the areas around their new rail stations to encourage the creation of mixed-use neighborhoods that allow residents to work, shop and live without the need for an automobile. New residential units and commercial space opened near the Meriden station in anticipation of the start of CTrail service. The city also redeveloped a former industrial site downtown to create the new Meriden Green. It serves a dual purpose as a vibrant community space and a flood control measure along Harbor Brook, which was daylighted and is now the Green’s key attraction along with trails and an amphitheater.
The old Meriden station that closed in 2016 held the interesting distinction of being one of the few facilities constructed for the short-lived Penn Central Railroad. Created in 1968 through the joining of the rival Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads, the company went bankrupt within a few years and ceased to run passenger rail service. Amtrak, created in 1971, took over many of Penn Central’s vital Northeastern routes, including the Springfield Line. As part of a larger effort to reroute State Street, the city financed the construction of the old depot, and it opened to the traveling public in 1970. It replaced a brick colonial revival style depot that had been constructed by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1942.
Meriden was originally part of Wallingford, whose settlement was authorized by colonial Connecticut’s General Assembly in 1667. Only six years before, a tract of land along the Quinnipiac River was acquired by Jonathan Gilbert of Hartford, and soon became known as Meriden Farm. The area was crisscrossed by streams and the present downtown was noted for its marshy terrain. How the name “Meriden,” meaning “pleasant vale,” came to be applied to the land remains unclear, but it was most likely taken from an English community of the same name that was familiar to some of the early Connecticut settlers.
Within a few years, Gilbert’s son-in-law, Andrew Belcher, constructed a tavern on the road between New Haven and Hartford which followed the path of present day Broad Street. Those cities had been the heads of their own colonies which finally joined together into one entity in 1664. As a result of the merger, a system of dual capitals was born that lasted well into the 19th century; therefore, the 40 mile overland route between them became a vital transportation corridor, and Meriden prospered due to its location halfway between the two.
While some European colonists settled in Meriden starting in the mid-17th century, it was not recognized as a distinct entity until 1727 when 35 farming families, tired of traveling south to Wallingford to attend religious ceremonies, petitioned to have their own parish. A meeting house, which was the center of worship as well as local governance, was erected that year, and a burial ground was laid out nearby. As in many frontier villages, settlers took advantage of fast flowing streams to construct grist and saw mills that provided processed grains and lumber for construction. One of the oldest buildings still standing in town is the Solomon Goffe House, a gambrel-roofed wood frame structure. Covered in clapboard, parts of the house date to the first decades of the 18th century.
Meriden remained largely agricultural until New England began to undergo industrialization in the early 19th century. The region’s abundant waterpower made it a fertile ground for new methods of producing goods by machine rather than by hand. In the late 18th century, resident Samuel Yale began cutting nails in a small workshop near the meeting house, and he later added pewter buttons to his product line. His son, Charles, would go on to purchase the grist and fulling mills in northern Wallingford where he constructed a new dam across the Quinnipiac River and expanded his business interests to include tinware, and eventually pewter and Britannia ware goods. The latter products set the foundation for the area’s economic success well into the 20th century.
Britannia ware, a superfine grade of spun pewter, helped revive interest in that metal. It was rolled out and stamped to create everyday household goods such as spoons and teapots that were hard and durable, yet light in weight. By the mid-1820s, improved manufacturing methods allowed for the mass production of Britannia ware. Yale was joined by a handful of competitors all striving to grab a piece of a fast growing market sparked by the innovations coming out of his factories.
In the next generation, the electroplating process was improved, and Britannia ware was recognized as a fine base material. At the same time that this new industry was being set up in Wallingford, entrepreneur Robert Wallace purchased a recipe for “German Silver,” or nickel silver. A copper alloy with nickel and zinc, it approximated the shine and coloring of more expensive sterling silver. Nickel silver became a popular alternative to sterling, and was also a good base for silver plating.
Britannia ware and nickel silver, as well as the silver plating process, were developed at a time when increased wealth allowed the Victorian consumer to purchase non-utilitarian goods for the decoration of the home. These items were also used to highlight the purchaser’s status within society and were often proudly displayed within the home for all to see. Silver plate products—tea sets, candlesticks, eating utensils—soon poured out of Meriden and Wallingford factories and the region gained a reputation as the center of the nation’s silverware industry. In 1898, fourteen Connecticut silver manufacturers came together to create the International Silver Company, which chose Meriden for its headquarters. Although the individual factories continued to produce unique lines, they cooperated on marketing and distribution, and dominated the American silverware industry for decades. In the early 20th century, the silver industry employed more than 3,000 workers, leading to Meriden’s moniker as the “Silver City.”
In part, the success of these companies was encouraged by the ease of shipping via the railroad. Meriden’s silver and other goods—including ivory combs and firearms—could be sent to important national markets, or directed overseas via the major international ports of Boston and New York. The first railroad to break ground in the city was the Hartford and New Haven (H&NH), chartered in 1833 to link the state’s two capitals. Despite delays caused by the financial panic of 1837, the line from New Haven to Meriden opened in 1838, and the town served as the northern terminus until the next year when the full route to Hartford was placed in operation. That December, the line bore the first steam locomotive in the state and ushered in a new era in transportation. At New Haven, passengers could transfer to steamships to reach New York City. As was often the case, the initial depot—described as “shed-like”—was simple in design and hastily constructed.
Many of Connecticut’s early railroads, such as the H&NH, were oriented north-south due to the undulating coastline which 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 Manhattan. Realizing the value in helping one another and shutting out rivals, the H&NH and the NY&NH agreed to merge in 1872, resulting in the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, or the “New Haven.”
The New Haven 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. 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.
As the railroad’s influence expanded, the town center shifted westward away from Broad Street and towards the rail line. During the 1840s, Meriden’s station functions were located in Main Street hotels until a permanent depot was erected in 1854. It burned down a decade later and was replaced with another that was in use until 1882. That year, the New Haven opened a larger, more elegant French Second Empire style brick station with a fashionable mansard roof, prominent quoins, and fancy scrolled brackets. It closely resembled those still standing in Wallingford and Windsor, and had a long canopy that protected passengers from winter snows and the strong summer sun. Along with this new facility, the railroad also constructed a sizeable freight house to accommodate growing business interests.
By the mid-20th century, changing consumer patterns and economics had greatly affected New England manufacturers, and many relocated or closed their doors for good. In response, Meriden’s leaders attempted to reorient the local economy to other industries, and a successful research park was developed to attract companies specializing in the health and life sciences. The city has also become a popular destination due to its stunning natural setting, as it is nestled between two ranges of hills. To the west, the Hanging Hills rise to more than 900 feet, and constitute part of the larger Metacomet Ridge that runs from Long Island Sound up to the southern Vermont border. Formed almost 200 million years ago by volcanic activity, the ridge’s basalt has been carved and weathered over the centuries, and exposed iron gives the hills a reddish hue.
Hubbard Park is located within the Hanging Hills, and was given to the people of Meriden by manufacturer and philanthropist Walter Hubbard, who made his fortune in metal goods such as lamps and decorative accessories. Laid out by the famed landscape architecture firm headed by the Olmsted Brothers, the park includes woodlands interspersed with walking trails and recreational facilities. One of the most popular destinations is Castle Craig, a crenellated look-out tower located on East Peak. Financed by Hubbard, it was opened in 1900. From its summit, on clear days, visitors can see south to Long Island Sound and north to the foothills of southern Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains.
During the last week of April, Meriden’s famous Daffodil Festival takes place in the park. With 61 varieties and more than half-a-million flowers, the fields are transformed into blankets of blossoms in vibrant and bright yellow, orange, and white tones. Inaugurated in 1978, the event attracts tens of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the gifts of nature, as well as good food, live music, a crafts show, amusement rides, a fireworks display, and a parade. The most anticipated moment of the weekend is the crowning of one of the city’s elementary school girls as Little Miss Daffodil. Bearing a green sash and a wreath of the celebrated flowers, she glides through the hushed and parting crowds accompanied by her honor escort.
Service between Greenfield, Mass., Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn., is financed primarily through funds made available by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 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.
Image courtesy of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Platform with Shelter
- ATM not available
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- Vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- High platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift
Station Waiting Room Hours
Ticket Office Hours
Passenger Assistance Hours