City’s Trolley Barn to Get New Life as Art Center

Anthony P. Musso for the Poughkeepsie Journal Located on the north side of Main Street, a half-block east of Clinton Square in the City of Poughkeepsie, is a building that once served as a horse, and later, electric trolley barn during the 19th and early 20th century. Established in June 1870, the original small four-wheeled horse-powered trolley cars could accommodate 20 passengers, who each paid 10 cents to ride it.

Originally using stables near the P&E Railroad Depot to house its cars and 42 horses overnight, the company erected its own stable on Main Street in 1874, which became the terminus of the system. During the blizzard of 1888 the snow and considerable drifts were so high that the company dug out tunnels for the horse trollies to pass through; the Garden Street sector resembled a temporary subway.

In 1894, the transformation from horse power to electricity saw the 63-foot square, 25-foot high Main Street building’s interior experience a major remodeling. Interior studding and beams were removed and a 12-inch partition was erected, which enabled the trolley company to utilize boilers on one side of the building and engines on the other.

The roof was raised 4 feet, an extension spanning 30-feet by 90-feet was added to accommodate the large fleet of electric trolleys and a power plant and the front of the building was reconfigured to include a superintendent’s office and waiting room. Office space was utilized on the second level while a repair shop was established in the basement.

Six trolley tracks, each fitted with car pits underneath, provided access for general maintenance and repairs. Of the six tracks installed in the building, four accessed the street.

“The building experienced a fire in 1906 and they rebuilt it,” said Roy Budnik, director of the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center farther west on Main Street, who recently purchased the old trolley barn. “The trolley ran from the Hudson River to Vassar College and the same company ran an urban line down to the Village of Wappingers Falls.”

The latter line had a regular stop at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, where a trolley waiting shelter still stands just inside and north of the property’s front gate. From that point, the trolley accessed South and Market streets, and made its way back to the barn.

“The trolley replaced stage coaches that used to transport people from Wappingers Falls to Poughkeepsie,” Budnik added.

The trolley operation shut down in 1935 and the city housed its buses in the building through 1954. Afterward, Diesing Supply Company set up shop there, offering auto supplies. That company’s name still exists on the side of the building.

In 1994, the building was sold to the Alamo Ambulance Company, which resold it in 2004 to a group of businessmen from New York City, but it remained empty. In September 2015, Budnik purchased it to relocate and expand the Heritage Center.

“We’re working with a number of different not-for-profit groups to create a multi-organization, multi-cultural center there,” Budnik said. “This space is much bigger than our current location and we’ll be able to stage many different kinds of events there.”

With Art Centro, an expansion of the Heritage Center that was established next to the trolley barn in 2013, Budnik said the goal is to make the location a cultural campus. Off-street parking, located in a lot between Art Centro and the former trolley barn that was once occupied by a hotel, will also benefit visitors.

Opened in 2010, the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center promotes appreciation of the

Hudson Valley’s cultural diversity through arts events, film screenings, lectures and workshops open to the community.

“Many people think of us as two separate organizations,” said Art Centro Director Alexis Feldheim. “Once we are on one campus people who know about Art Centro will become more aware of what’s happening at the Heritage Center, and vice versa.”

The historic former trolley barn is at 489 Main St., Poughkeepsie.

City’s trolley barn to get new life as art center (
Poughkeepsie Journal
Originally published: November 10, 2015