Historic Structures

Building Description Kingston Train Station, South Kingston Rhode Island

The Kingston Railroad Station is sited to the southeast of the Northeast Corridor Railroad, parallel to the tracks. For the purposes of this report, the tracks are considered to run north and south, and the siting of the station is referred to as north (facing Route 138), east (facing the original circular drive), south, and west (facing tracks).

The Kingston Railroad Station, constructed in 1875, was built as a passenger depot for the New York, Providence, and Boston Railroad. The depot replaced an earlier structure constructed one half mile to the northeast near Waites Corner Road in 1837 when the railroad was first put through. The building suffered substantial damage from a fire in 1988 and underwent emergency repairs and stabilization in 1994.

The building is a one-and-one-half story, wood frame structure set upon a low, brick foundation. The station, rectangular in plan, is approximately 76' x 30', symmetrical in design, with a gable roof. Its east and west elevations are articulated into seven bays and its north and south elevations into three bays.

The first story of the station to the eave level is sided with horizontal, shiplapped, flush wood siding, approximately 3" wide. The siding has been selectively replaced as part of the 1994 repairs, replacing areas of fire damage at the north end and rotted members above the foundation at the perimeter of the structure. The second story, above the projecting canopy, is covered with painted wood clapboard of approximately 4" exposure. A surface-mounted frieze board runs the perimeter of the structure at window sill height and has been selectively replaced in-kind. The bottom of the walls are finished with a surface mounted baseboard, approximately 8 1/2 " in height, replaced in-kind in 1994.

The building is served by four symmetrically placed doorways to the north and south of center on the east and west elevations. They provide access to the pair of waiting rooms on the interior. At the south end of the building, two five-panel wood doors measuring 3'2" x 8'0" appear to be original. The doors are trimmed with the same bolection molding as the windows. The two northern entrances have been replaced in-kind with new five-panel wood doors. A five-panel door with transom has been added at the center of the east elevation, replacing two hopper windows that were a later alteration to accommodate the modernization of the toilet rooms on the interior. Physical evidence uncovered during the emergency repairs revealed a casing indicating this opening had originally been a door.

When the station was originally built it had a projecting, concave-curved canopy on all four sides, supported by ornamental, angular, Stick-Style brackets finished with a simple chamfer, approximately 10' on center. The canopy at the track (west) side was replaced with a shed-roof style canopy extension in 1904 that extended south along the platform approximately 200 feet. It was supported by slim square chamfered piers with simple flared brackets. The shed-roof canopy was originally sheathed with pressed tin resembling shingles. This canopy was removed as a component of the 1994 repairs. The canopy along the east elevation was removed sometime after 1955. The canopy at the north gable end of the station was heavily damaged by the 1988 fire, while the original canopy remains at the south gable end. A concave-curved canopy matching the original at the south elevation was restored at the north, east, and west elevations in 1994.

The interior is simple in plan. At the north and south ends of the building are spacious passenger waiting rooms measuring 30' 5" x 28' 10". The rooms are almost identical except for a small, flat roofed extension to the ticket office which projects into the north waiting room. This feature, designed to house the telegraph office, may be original. The waiting rooms have high ceilings lighted by first floor, dormer, and gable windows. History holds that one waiting room was for men and their families, while the other was for "alone ladies".

The two waiting rooms are separated by a small service core which housed the stationmaster's office with ticket windows to both waiting rooms, a hallway connecting the two waiting rooms, toilet rooms, storage spaces, stairs to the cellar heating plant, and access to a second floor private office. The second floor is reported to have once been used as sleeping quarters by train crewmen between shifts. Later renovations of the toilet rooms necessitated the removal of the original stair which has rendered these upper rooms accessible only by ladder.

Much of the original interior detailing remains intact except for that portion of the north waiting room damaged by fire. The room rises approximately 20' under the gable roof to an area of flat plaster ceiling. Single dormer windows on the east and west elevations and a single window in the north gable end bring light into the room. Remaining hinge hardware suggests that all of these windows had shutters. At the center of the north end i-s an oriel window. There had been a faux window of matching size covered over with wood shutters on the interior south wall, of which only the casing remains since the fire. The center panel of the oriel window originally contained a tall, framed mirror. This was damaged by the 1988 fire and has since been removed.

Originally, the south waiting room was almost the mirror image of the north waiting room with the only significant difference being the lack of an extension to the ticket office in this space. This room, however, has been subdivided with temporary partitions and lowered ceilings. Much of the work was completed in the 1970s to provide expanded ticket office and storage space. The machinery from the switching tower was moved inside the station, to the south waiting room in 1983 or 1984. Additional work was undertaken after the 1988 fire to provide a temporary waiting room.

The original ticket office is an elongated hexagon in plan. A wide bay window at the west side overlooks the Hacks with a built-in counter with added storage compartments below for use by the telegrapher /train-watcher. A high desk runs the length of the room along the east side where the diagonally-set ticket windows serviced the adjacent waiting rooms. The desk is original and retains its built-in varnished oak counter and drawers, though a space for a safe has been cut. The walls of the office, like the waiting room, are treated with painted, beaded vertical wainscotting to a height of approximately 6' with smooth plaster and lath above. The wood floor has been covered with linoleum.

The north wall contains a rectangular opening providing passage to the small annex, which was the original telegraph office. This opening, with flat 1" x 6" casings, does not appear to be original. The offices were likely to have been separated by a solid wall, with the telegraph office accessible by a door from the north waiting room and the ticket office accessible by a door from the south waiting room.

The telegraph office contains a painted oak counter with drawers matching the detailing of the ticket office desk, which extends in front of the round-headed window on the west side of the office. A door opens to the waiting room at the east wall of the space. Finishes in the telegraph office are similar to the ticket office.

The toilet rooms are located between the north and south waiting rooms. An early description of the new depot does not refer to any "toilet rooms", though there is strong physical evidence, including plumbing, that indicate the two rooms on either side of the central chimney were intended for this purpose.

The entryway and stairway room on the north side of the service core were adopted for use as a men's toilet in the early twentieth century, probably when the New Haven Railroad closed off the south waiting room as a public room. Its walls are finished with painted wood wainscotting and the room has a beaded board ceiling. The paint finish of the west wall suggests where stairs previously ran to the second floor. This stair was removed and has been replaced with a ladder and trap door opening in the ceiling. The floor is cement. The east wall has been infilled with a new five panel door within an original opening. A contemporary door has been added to the south wall to access the waiting room beyond. It is possible that the small storage room to the west of the adjacent basement stairs, accessible from the south waiting room was the earlier men's toilet room.

The women's toilet room, accessible from the north waiting room, is smaller than the men's. The walls are finished with painted beaded board wainscotting. A transom above the door provides ventilation. The entrance to the women's toilet room is narrower than the entrance to the men's toilet room. This entrance will be widened to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The interiors of both the men's and women's toilet rooms have been altered to accommodate modern plumbing fixtures.

A full-height cellar of approximately 28' x 32' x 9' is located under the center of the building. Access to the space is provided by a stair from the south waiting room. Two rows of closely spaced, 5' on center, ·monolithic granite piers approximately 1' square, carry timber beams supporting the bearing walls above. The floor is framed with 3" x 8" wood joists, 18" on center. The foundation walls are built of very large, rough faced, uncoursed granite. There is a crawl space to the north and south beneath the far ends of the waiting rooms.

The second floor, accessed by a ceiling opening in the men's toilet room, is divided into three spaces. At the center of the space is a landing which remains from an earlier stair. From this landing are two short runs of stairs with railings formed from vertical wainscot boarding. The walls and ceiling of the landing are plaster. To the east, the stairs rise into a hall which provides access to a small, windowless interior room. The walls of the interior room are plaster above 4'4" wainscotting of plain horizontal wood boards. An original four panel wood door between these spaces remains, though it as been removed from its hinges, as have wood shutters from the paired windows in the hall.

The short run of stairs on the west side of the landing leads to a passage with a four panel door which serves a larger room beyond. The walls and ceiling of this space are deteriorated plaster. The pair of windows facing west retain original shutter hinges. Casings and baseboards throughout the second floor are painted wood and the floors are 5 1/2" wide wood planks.

The station is located on the east side of the railroad tracks. It was originally surrounded by a wooden walkway extending along the tracks. This has been replaced with an asphalt platform. The station fronts on a circular drive which is probably an original site feature. Early photographs document that the circular drive was defined by a simple wood rail fence which was replaced in the early twentieth century by granite bollards with iron pipe railings. This feature remains today with the stone piers largely intact and in good condition, though the iron railings are rusty, and some lengths are missing or damaged. The center of the circular drive is grassed with a cluster of mature but poorly maintained trees. The outer perimeter of the drive is overgrown with dense brush.

Access from the main road serving the station, now Route 138, was provided by a driveway running adjacent to the tracks and Railroad Avenue. In 1936, the original grade crossing of Route 138 north of the station was replaced with a reinforced concrete highway bridge. Construction of this overpass and the associated site improvements required a reconfiguration of the original driveway. The existing asphalt drive, approximately 83' in diameter, fronts the station to the east. The drive is flanked by a grassed area with a basketball court and some picnic tables. Adjacent to the tracks is a paved parking area extending from the station to the overpass. This is the site a former railroad building composed of four separate but attached offices that accommodated, from south to north, the original switching tower, the Railroad Express Agency, Inc., the baggage and shipping functions, and the maintenance room. The tracks are bordered by irregularly-spaced wooden utility poles.

At the time the station was constructed, a freight house and water tower were built opposite the station on the west side of the tracks. These structures are no longer extant. Tracks and switches remain, but the area is currently an underutilized freight yard overgrown with brush. Further west beyond the freight yard is a row of privately-owned warehouses.

In the early twentieth century, a large railway express shed with second floor switching station was built just north of the station. This structure is also no longer standing. A small switching tower constructed about 1930 was built to replace the original tower that had stood 128. 7' north of the 1875 depot. The 1930 switching tower supported new technology and machinery that was smaller and more automated that the original, which probably was operated by early hand-thrown levers. Approximately 35' in height with a 15' x 15' floor plate, the two-story, hipped roof tower has an exterior stair leading to the control room on the upper floor. The first floor of this building was later leased out to the U.S. Post Office, an area of 294 square feet. The building was obstructed from direct view of the depot by the original row of railroad buildings north of the station, though connected by telegraph wires as late as 19"16. The switching machinery was moved to the south waiting room of the depot in 1983. The switching tower was moved from its original site near the depot to just north of the Route 1 38 overpass to save it from destruction. The tower provided functional support to the station for more that half the life of the depot, and is historically significant as the only standing adjunct railroad building associated with the station.

In 1876, the year after the station was built, a local rail line, the Narragansett Pier Railroad, was built with its western terminus at the Kingston Railroad Station. The line entered the site and ran along the east side of the main railroad platform to its terminus at the station. This line was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century and the majority of its tracks have been removed. Although some of the tracks and the remains of an engine turntable are still visible to the south of the station, the line is primarily recognizable as a grassy right-of-way in an otherwise undeveloped and densely overgrown landscape.