• Tenafly Station restored, opens as Cafe.

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey

Moderator: David

  by wantsrail
From "The (Bergen) Record"

Old train station now serving coffee, tea, history

Tuesday, November 23, 2004



Time zips by or stands perfectly still, depending on how you look at the Victorian-style Tenafly railroad station.

The lovingly preserved 1872 landmark will embark on its fourth incarnation today as Café Angelique.

Vestiges of the original railroad station remain, however.

The ticket counter window is intact - the crosshatched wire that once protected ticket brokers and their coffers now overlooks baristas brewing coffee.

The Gothic windows, complete with the original small diamond-shaped stained glass inserts, are original. Ditto for the radiators.

The only thing missing: the trains.

The last of the passenger lines pulled out in 1966, just two years after the town bought the station from the Erie Railroad Co.

Since then, the building has housed a clothing store and a beauty salon, which lasted for 20 years.

The coffee shop is modern with a strong French influence, and is a world away from the station's former life.

A plasma-screen TV will play old films. Gilded flowers and vines on the walls carry a vague French feel. There's also an original humorous French painted advertisement with a man cutting wine bottles from grapevines.

Isaac Ben-Avraham, owner of Café Angelique, owns two other cafes in Manhattan, where he wanted to create a chain.

"But I always said I would go to New Jersey if I can have this space," he said.

The train station wasn't equipped to serve iced chai latte or a soymilk mocha, which drew initial resistance from historical preservationists.

"We're not opening a train station," said Ben-Avraham, describing how he and the town Historic Preservation Commission navigated historic preservation requirements.

A renovation boom could follow. Representatives from the commission plan to approach the borough tonight about putting half the rental income Ben-Avraham pays to lease the space

aside to pursue other historic renovation projects.

Though there are no trains in sight, tributes to the rails abound.

An 1850s map along the back wall was restored by Albert Cafiero, a train buff, Tenafly resident and transportation adviser to state Sen. Gerald Cardinale.

"There's a lot of things wrong," said Cafiero, who rode the train from Northvale to Tenafly High School in the 1930s.

Tracing the map with his finger, he points to the Tenafly railroad station.

"It's on the wrong side, and it's too far south," he said slyly. "But the map was drawn before the railroad came up here."

Recreating the railroad station has been a field trip in time for him, and for the others involved.

Cafiero and Ben-Avraham found stacks of old telegrams in the attic.

"They sort of resemble IM [instant messaging] in a way," said Kevin Tremble, secretary of the preservation commission. "There are a lot of shorthand confirmations of arrival."

The renovation began in 1980 when the borough replaced an asphalt roof with slate. It continued in the early 1990s with a $275,000 outdoor renovation, half of which came from state |aid.

Of the stations on the Northern Erie line, the only ones standing are in Englewood, which is now a recording studio; Demarest, which is being restored; Closter, which is now a private home; and Piermont, N.Y., which that town is trying to restore.

Tenafly's station is one of the more ornate.

"Well, the president of the railroad lived in Tenafly," he explained.

Even if the railroad is serving a new purpose, it is still the center of town.

"Historically, towns grew up around railroads and the railroad stations," said Mayor Peter Rustin. "The oldest buildings in downtown are near to this."

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