The advent of the railroad transformed Indianapolis from a town to a city. The present station was built in 1888 and is a fine example of Romanesque Revival executed in brick, terra-cotta, and granite. The Art Nouveau Style or "Jugendstil" train shed to the south was completed in 1922 (the year the writer was born) when the downtown rail lines were elevated, opening to the north-south streets to traffic.
Union Station as photographed in the 1900s. Image: Detroit Publishing Company, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Before the automobile, the railroad was the way to go for long distance travel. This building’s 1850s predecessor was the nation’s first union station, whereby all the many rail lines converged at the same station.
A train at Union Station photographed in the 1960s. Image: Roger Puta, public domain via Wikimedia Commons. The north front of Indianapolis Union Station as photographed in 1970. Image: Jack Boucher, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Kurt Vonnegut would go to Cornell University by rail in 1940. This would be the end of Kurt’s Indianapolis life except summer vacations. He was very familiar with Union Station and wrote in "Slapstick" about a conversation with his brother, Bernard:
"I told him that I had been going to operas recently, and that the set for the first act of Tosca had looked exactly like the interior of Union Station in Indianapolis to me. While the actual opera was going on, I said, I daydreamed about putting track numbers in the archways of the set, and passing out bells and whistles to the orchestra, and staging an opera about Indianapolis during the Age of the Iron Horse."
The main hall of Indianapolis Union Station. Image: Piotrus,CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. A 1900s New York production of the opera “Tosca”. Image: Boyer, from “The Victrola Book of the Opera,” public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Cover image: Alan Levine, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.