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Posted by Kate Fichter, South Station Expansion Project Manager

Over the last six weeks, MassDOT staff have been analyzing public comments received on the Environmental Notification Form for the expansion of Boston South Station.  Responses to those comments, as well as detailed technical information, will be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project, which is scheduled to be released in spring 2014.  But as the project continues to advance, now is a good time to reflect on the storied past of South Station.

South Station, Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection.South Station, seen here courtesy the Boston Public Library/Leslie Jones Collection, used to be home to a popular cinema, which was later transformed into a Catholic church. The single-level, 550-seat cinema, which opened in the 1940s and was advertised as being located “across from Track 27,” would show newsreels, cartoons, and short series.  The cinema was converted into Our Lady of the Railways chapel in the mid-1950s. The chapel was known for its extremely speedy services, designed to accommodate travelers pressed for time. Our Lady of the Railways quickly became a local chapel also used by Boston residents seeking the quickest Mass in town.  The church closed in the 1970s, and the location is now home to office buildings at the intersection of the Leather and Financial Districts.

The subterranean “ghost terminal” is another relic of an earlier time.  This underground area of South Station has had many different uses over the years, including a parking garage, office space, a baggage claim area, and a bowling alley.  The so-called ghost terminal was originally built by the New Haven Railroad, and included a two-track loop large enough to handle 25,000 passengers a day. It was only used briefly for its intended purpose, however; the smoke and fumes from the steam engines of the day almost immediately rendered the terminal space uninhabitable. The “ghost terminal” still exists today and is used for office space and storage for the MBTA and Amtrak.  The 20 million people who pass through the main concourse of South Station each year walk directly overhead.

Over the years, South Station has been a transportation hub that has also offered entertainment, dining, shopping, and opportunities to worship for both weary travelers and local residents. It has changed in many ways over the years, but still retains its core function as the most important train station in New England.  With your comments and ideas, it will continue to reflect the needs of the times while looking to the future.

Please feel free to contact me at katherine.fichter@state.ma.us and be sure to sign up for project updates at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/southstationexpansion/Notification.aspx.

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