NIAGARA FALLS – Trains won’t be pulling up to the new Amtrak train station on 825 Depot St. for another month, but visitors can still get a sneak peak Saturday. The City of Niagara Falls is hosting an open house for the new two-story, $43 million train station and its adjoining historic 1863 custom house.
The event, dubbed “Niagara Falls Amtrak Community Day,” is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The open house will showcase the 40,000-square-foot property which now houses a Harriet Tubman exhibit, clock tower and train station for routes from Toronto to New York City. Not included in the showcase, but still part of the property, are several U.S. Customs Border Patrol offices and holding cells.
The event includes a self-guided tour of the station, food trucks, local food and wine vendors, a guided tour of the Great Gorge Railway trail and information about the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
Here are four things you should know about the new station:
The customs house was built during the Civil War.
Everything at the customs house’s core is original from 1863. The brick, wooden frames and even some glass panes are all from the mid-1800s.
The customs house used to be partially underground.
When workers first took a look at the customs house in 2009, the entire first floor was all buried underground, according to construction manager Fred Mills.
The manager said the overgrowth was about 16 feet high and came just under the second floor’s windows. According to him, the only way workers could first enter in the beginning was through the first window when you walk in on the right. Everything else was buried below.
The clock tower lights up.
After sunset, the 70-foot clock tower (located on the opposite side of the custom house) lights up with purple, green, blue and orange hues at night. Visitors can only enjoy the tower from the outside; the tower’s stairs inside will only be used in case of emergencies.
There’s a lot more planned.
Currently, a large portion of the first floor is closed off to the public, but, Amtrak has plans to convert that section into retail space. The construction manager didn’t know which stores would be located there or when the retail space would be open to the public, but he did say there were plans in the works.
The lawn in front of the custom house may be turned into more of a theater and interpretive area.