Union Station

Chicago Illinois Union Station

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> Union Station was completed in 1925, and it is Chicago's only intercity rail terminal.

> About 120,000 passengers pass through each day making it the third-busiest rail terminal in the nation.

> The Beaux-Arts style design was initiated by Daniel Burnham, who died before the building was completed. Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White oversaw the project through completion. 

> Union Station spans 9 city blocks, but most of its interior is underground.

The 20th Century Link

In December of 1858 the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad opened its first station at Van Buren Street, which then became Union Station. The expansion that followed was the result of intense competition. Railways had become a pillar of the country's growth and Chicago became a vital link in the middle of the country.

Traffic hit a peak during WWII, mostly due to the transportation of soldiers. The station is depicted this time in Norman Rockwell's 'The Saturday Evening Post'. After the war, the era of increased car ownership and highway construction saw a decline in Railway transport across the nation, including at Union Station. That being said, the station is still quite busy and moves roughly 120,000 passengers a day.

Third Time's the Charm

While Union Station is the Chicago's only intercity railway terminal, this particular station is the third of three architectural incarnations. This current design was initially spearheaded by Daniel Burnham, but he died before the building was completed. Wrigley Building architects Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White took over the project and oversaw it through to completion. Construction of the building took 12 years and was finally complete in 1925. In addition to delays during WWI, the process of demolishing and relocating existing buildings added to the timeline of Union Station's construction.

Beaux-Arts Extroadinaire

High archways and15-foot glass domes are all a part of the railway station's distinctive interior. The Beaux-Arts influence begins when you enter the building, which has grand staircases built at each of the four entryways.

The railway station's massive waiting room, known as the Great Hall, is reminiscent of the bold, powerful look that the designers wanted Chicago to portray. The design was an homage to Chicago's importance as a central link between two sides of the country.

From the profound elements, to the small detail work: light fixtures and chandeliers carved with flowers, birds, bees, and butterflies; the station actualizes high-era Beaux Arts design from top to bottom.

"Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o'clock of a December evening, with a few Chicago friends, already caught up into their own holiday gayeties, to bid them a hasty good-by. I remember the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This-or-That's and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances, and the matchings of invitations: "Are you going to the Ordways'? the Herseys'? the Schultzes'?" and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands. And last the murky yellow cars of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad looking cheerful as Christmas itself on the tracks beside the gate." F. Scott Fitzgerald. 'The Great Gatsby'

Cover image source: Andrew Kalat, CC BY-ND 2.0, no changes made.

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