For nearly 50 years, my hometown, Englewood, NJ, has tried to figure out what to do with a structure that first gave it life: its railroad station. From a peak of 47 trains, service had fallen to only two by the time the last passenger train came through when I was a child, in 1966. I can still remember, as a tween, going to the depot for special nights devoted to old movies such as Johnny Tremain and Kirk Douglas’ Ulysses, but otherwise, for years, nobody seemed to know what to do with it. Then in the Eighties and Nineties, various restaurants operated out of the station. But those quickly fell by the wayside.
I had more hope when Tony Bennett and his son (onetime residents of the town) opened a studio there. But after a decade that included the recording and editing of the Grammy-winning singer’s Duets II CD, that studio, too, closed, due to escalating operational costs and a recession-induced downturn in the recording industry.
Over the last year, this vintage Victorian railroad station has evolved into yet another use: the Performing Arts School for the Bergen Performing Arts Center (BergenPAC), a local institution that itself, over the course of the last 40 years, had been converted from a movie theater to a performing arts center—and that also has struggled to survive. The station is now part of BergenPAC’s education program for providing basic and professional-level classes in theater, dance and music for students.
Here’s hoping that this latest stage of this venerable local landmark takes firm root.