Toledo, Spain is a marvelous city. Most famous now for being the home of the artist Domenikos Theotocopoulos. Perhaps only Gaudi and Barcelona present a stronger connection of city to artist. Toledo was a struggling provincial municipality when I first visited in the 1980’s, but when my wife and I returned just three summers ago it had become something akin to Madrid’s Brooklyn: all of the storefronts were full, there were hordes of twenty and thirty-somethings wandering everywhere and home prices had skyrocketed.
I insisted we wander the streets of the old city until we found an echo of that less prosperous day when I first visited. It took sometime but we did so and then promptly returned to the more touristy parts of town. A beer could be gotten for 100 pesetas, sorry, 1 euro, at…wait for it…the McDonald’s on the plaza alta and we sat, having earlier viewed “El entierro del señor de Orgaz”, we watched the brides promenade across the square.
We came to Toledo on the bullet train which transformed what had been hours on a bus to a 30 minute comfort cruise. As we were waiting for the train back to Madrid my wife overheard a woman, an American, telling her companion that this train station had been a church, an ancient house of worship transformed into functional train station via adaptive reuse; those Spaniards! The only problem was that 10 feet away, on the wall, was a pictorial history of the station from design to construction. The Mudejar style was chosen to echo some of the church buildings in what has always been Spain’s capital of the Catholic Church, but it was absolutely and exclusively, from the ticket windows to the multiple doorways leading to the various platforms, a train station.
I was reminded of this story because, back home in Springfield, the media was reporting on the changes to the “Green Zone” plan for downtown when MGM opens in the Autumn; instead of placing all of the police substations in a line on Main Street the plan now includes two substations on a vertical axis at what will be the new Pynchon Plaza, connecting to the museums, and at the entrance to Riverfront Park. In at least three different news reports from 2 different media outlets they are reporting that “the old train station” at the entrance to Riverfront Park will be remodeled into a police substation. But it never was a train station, it was built long after Springfield’s rail heyday and was designed to look like a train station because to enter the park a visitor must pass across multiple tracks at grade level; and so to turn this necessity into a feature of the park the bathrooms and ticket window (for concerts?) were built to appear like an old-timey station.
It’s a credit to the architects of the Toledo station and the Springfield not-a-station that casual observers and intrepid reporters both can confuse their respectful homages for the real thing. By the way, this is downtown’s train station:
It’s been in the news quite a bit lately, including numerous reports from these same news outlets…many of the stories…done by the same reporters.