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Restored Benches On Loan From Grand Central Unveiled At Springfield's Union Station

    One of the finishing touches of the $95 million restoration of Springfield’s Union Station is now in place.

    A pair of restored high back doubled sided wooden benches were unveiled Monday in the passenger waiting area, part of a collection of antiques, memorabilia and artwork on display in the modern transportation hub that is  meant to evoke the heyday of 20th Century train travel.

   The benches, each 15-and-a-half feet long and 5-feet wide, are on long-term loan from New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.  Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who was the driving force behind the Union Station redevelopment, brokered the deal for the benches.

   "The artifacts in Grand Central Terminal are very important to all of us, but what is noteworthy in terms of irony is that terminal means the end, but for these benches it is part of the beginning of the rebirth of our Union Station here in Springfield," said Neal.

   Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and officials with the Springfield Redevelopment Authority participated in a short ceremony Monday morning to celebrate the installation of the benches that resemble ones that were in use for decades in Union Station from the time it originally opened in 1926.

  During the early stages of the Union Station restoration project two years ago it was discovered that all but one of the 40 original benches that had been stored in the derelict station after it closed in 1974 had disappeared and were believed to have been stolen.

  " That should be for all of us a point of continued concern as to what happened to those benches, and I certainly have not given up on finding out who did what," Neal said.

The two antique oak benches on loan from Grand Central were repaired and restored for $25,000 by Peter Fiordalice of John Carlo Woodworking.

  "They weigh a ton, and are very difficult to move around," said  Fiordalice. " We stripped them down to the origional wood, fixed them, made handmade new rosettes on the side with the flower pattern.  It was truly an honor to work on these benches."

  Armando Feliciano, chairman of the SRA Board of Directors, said sitting on one of the antique benches brought on a feeling of nostalgia.

   "I am very grateful and happy this happened," said Feliciano.  "I wish it had been the origional benches, but they're gone."

  Several other artifacts from Union Station were recovered, restored and put on display. These include the original clock, which was repaired to working condition and hangs on a wall in the grand concourse.

   Also on display in the passenger waiting area is a chalkboard that was used to report scheduled train arrivals and departures, a wooded baggage cart, and two barbers’ chairs.

   Union Station reopened last year.

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