The high Line, the Post office, and Abraham Lincoln Chelsea History

| 20 Jul 2015 | 03:14

Thousands of people every day walk past the Morgan Post Office Annex on 9th Avenue between 29th and 30th streets. Probably not that many of them stop to look at a plaque on the 30th Street side that explains how this location, at that time a railroad terminal, was twice closely linked with Abraham Lincoln – the first time at the beginning of his presidency and the second time after his tragic death.

In the 1840s, the Hudson River Railroad, the ancestor of today’s MetroNorth Hudson Line, built tracks down the Far West Side (the lower portion of this route evolved into the High Line). In 1860-61, a new terminal was built at the 30th Street site, and the first train to use it, according to the plaque, was the inaugural train of President-elect Lincoln.

According to the “Postscripts” blog, the train pulled into the 30th Street station at 3 p.m. on Feb. 19. Lincoln immediately got into a carriage that took him to the Astor House near City Hall, where he met with members of local Republican clubs. The next day, he met with Mayor Fernando Wood (who hated abolitionists and was sympathetic to the Confederacy) and the City Council. Finally, he held a public reception, where he shook hands with about 30 veterans of the War of 1812.

The second journey was a more tragic one. After the president was assassinated in 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton arranged for the president’s casket to be taken on a “tour” of major American cities so that people would have a chance to mourn and to pay their respects. Lincoln’s casket was ferried in from New Jersey on April 24, and was then taken to City Hall in a procession in which religious groups, immigrant societies, groups of tradesmen and others marched. According to the “Abraham Lincoln and New York” site, the City Council had forbidden African-Americans from marching, but Secretary Stanton intervened, and a regiment of black soldiers marched in the rear with a police escort to guarantee their safety.

After being on display for two days at City Hall, the casket was taken to the 30th Street terminal where, to the accompaniment of funeral dirges played by a band, it was loaded onto the train that would eventually take him back to his hometown of Springfield, Ill.

So, what happened to the 30th Street terminal?

In 1869, Cornelius Vanderbilt bought the Hudson River Railroad and incorporated it into the New York Central. Two years later, he rerouted Hudson River passenger trains into his new Grand Central Depot. A local train called the “Dolly Varden” still shuttled between the 30th Street terminal and Spuyten Duyvil a few times a day, and the terminal was also used as a depot for milk trains. But, as the 1916 “Rider’s New York” guidebook said, “Most born-and-bred New Yorkers don’t even know of the existence of this station.”

It was demolished in 1931 for the postal annex.