Home Culture The Designer of Montclair’s Old Lackawanna Plaza Was a Titanic Passenger

The Designer of Montclair’s Old Lackawanna Plaza Was a Titanic Passenger

by Olivia Fisher
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This true story links one of Montclair’s iconic landmarks to a famous nautical disaster: the sinking of the Titanic.  This might not be common knowledge, but here at The Montclair Girl, we love exploring all things Montclair. Just over a century ago, architect and Orange resident William Hull Botsford perished in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. His legacy lives on today in his designs, including Lackawanna and several other train stations. Read on to learn all about William, Lackawanna, and Essex County’s other Titanic connections.

william hull botsford titanic lackawanna plaza history montclair new jersey

Montclair’s Lackawanna Plaza

Lackawanna Train Station has been home to three different station buildings. The Third Station opened on June 28th, 1913, serving Montclair until 1981. This version of Lackawanna Train Station, designed by William Hull Botsford, was hailed as the “handsomest and best arranged suburban railway terminal in the United States”, according to The Montclair Times on June 21st, 1913. The arrival of the railroad to Montclair signaled a shift from farming and agricultural society to the commuter suburb we know today. Montclair has the most commuter stations of any Essex County town, with six.

The Ivy at Chatham

william hull botsford titanic lackawanna plaza history montclair new jersey

Photo Credit: Montclair History Center

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William never had the chance to see his work come to life as he perished in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. William also served as the chief designer for many other railroads in New York including Bath, Elmira, Ithaca, Syracuse, and Utica, and stations in New Jersey including Lake Hopatcong, Basking Ridge, Bloomfield, and Watsessing. William also taught architect courses at night at his home in Orange.

Who Was William Hull Botsford?

William Hull Botsford was born in Binghamton, New York in 1886 to William and Talitha Botsford. He attended Cornell University for Architecture and wrestled there. In 1912, he was sent to Egypt, Spain, Italy, and France by the Delaware, Lackawanna + Western Railroad Company for additional architectural training. By February 1912, William was in England. He purchased a second-class ticket for the RMS Titanic with the intention of reaching Elmira, New York.

william hull botsford titanic lackawanna plaza history montclair new jersey sign

The Titanic was a British passenger ship and mail-carrying ocean liner, built by Harland and Wolff. At the time, it was the largest passenger ship in the world. Over 3,300 passengers and crew boarded the Titanic for her maiden voyage. Less than a third would survive the journey to the United States. Readers will know what happens next, as it has been memorialized in books and movies, including the multi-award-winning 1997 film Titanic.



On April 14th, 1912 the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg. Within three hours, the ship had sunk beneath the surface, claiming over 2,200 lives. At the time, it became the deadliest sinking of a single ship.

When the distress alarm sounded for passengers to exit the ship, William, a skilled fire and rescue team member, was instrumental in assisting the crew. After many departed the ship and no more lifeboats or life jackets were available, he jumped into the cold water. Although an avid swimmer, the Atlantic Ocean was too cold and William perished at sea. His body was never recovered. A dual-person headstone was arranged by his sister Talitha, where his name is displayed in memory on a cenotaph at Millport Cemetery in Millport, New York.

Other Essex Countyians on the Titanic

William Hull Botsford might be one of the most notable Essex County residents who boarded the Titanic, but he was not the only one. Essex County residents who survived included Henry Blank of Glen Ridge, Elizabeth Nye of East Orange, Charles Stengel of Newark, and Annie May Stengel of Newark. Those who perished included William Walker of East Orange, John March of Newark, and August Schmidt of Newark.

william hull botsford titanic lackawanna plaza history montclair new jersey exterior

John March of Newark was the only crew member from New Jersey. He served as one of the five postal clerks aboard. His pocket watch is on display at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

See More: How Hoboken’s Lackawanna Train Station Changed Transportation Around the World

There were also several voyagers headed for Essex County who boarded the ship. These include Elmer Taylor and Juliet Taylor of London, England who were headed for East Orange; they survived. Father John Cribb and his daughter Laura Mae Cribb of Bournemouth, England were headed for Newark, only Laura Mae survived. The Ford family of Margaret, Dollina, Edward, William, and Robina from Rotherfield, England were headed for Essex County; none survived. Fletcher Fellows Lambert-Williams of London, England was headed for Newark but also did not survive.

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