The Oneida County Public Market (OCPM) was established in 2011 by County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. as an economic development initiative with a primary goal of establishing the first year-round produce market in downtown Utica, a community classified as a food desert by the USDA. The dual focus of this initiative included not only the establishment of the Public Market, but the revitalization of the long shuttered Railroad Express Agency (REA) wing of the Union Station.
Utica’s historic train station was opened for the New York Central (NYC) Railroad in 1914, and became a union station in late 1915 when the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad moved their services to the riverside facility. Amtrak passengers today use the restored waiting room of this staffed station, and instead of crossing under the tracks to the platforms as they once did, they use an enclosed aerial walkway. The facility serves as a regional transportation hub hosting Amtrak, Greyhound and Birnie Bus Lines, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the State Department of Motor Vehicles Utica office, the Oneida County Public Market office, the Oneida County Tourism Welcome Center and various county offices. Over 63,000 travelers passed through this historic structure in 2016.
Three stories high, this monumental building includes a granite first story with buff brick above. Symmetrically rectangular, there are thirteen bays across the façade and fifteen on the side elevations. Each bay consists of a tall arched window on the first story, a square-headed window with bracketed sill on the second and a simple square-headed window on the third. A brick parapet crowns the building; and over the main entrance is a large clock flanked by eagles.
The interior is as impressive as the exterior. The main waiting room rises to a coffered, barrel-vaulted ceiling thirty-five feet at its peak. The vault is supported on each side by a row of columns faced with Botticino marble, and the floor is made of durable terrazzo. Grey Vermont and Knoxville marbles are used on the interior wall facings and ticket windows. Long wooden benches furnish the waiting room, and a restaurant originally sat at the west end of the building. Today, the Trackside continues to offer travelers, local business people and residents delicious Italian favorites for lunch and dinner. The station and the restaurant regularly host events including galas, weddings, proms and family gatherings.
Having a storied past, this once vibrant hub of economic activity was closed in the early 1960’s due to the decline of rail freight operations for long haul transportation of materials for the once thriving local manufacturing industry. In 1975, Union Station and the attached REA wing were added to the National Register of Historic Places while it still belonged to the Penn Central Railroad, successor to the NYC. It had become badly deteriorated, but not beyond saving. State Assemblyman Nicholas J. Calogero and the fledgling Landmarks Society of Greater Utica spearheaded the movement to restore the station. Oneida County purchased the station in 1978, and has been dedicated to the restoration of the structure ever since.
With Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County, a major community-based organization devoted to agricultural and nutrition issues throughout the county, significant resources have been invested to establish the Oneida County Public Market.