Saint Louis, MO

The Union Station in St. Louis is a National Historic Landmark that was repurposed to serve a large metropolitan city

CJ Coombs
St. Louis, Missouri Union Station.Dustin Batt, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The St. Louis Union Station is a train station in Missouri and is a National Historic Landmark. When this station opened in In 1894, it was the largest in the world. During the 1940s, the traffic of people was reaching 100,000 a day. Fast forward to 1978, the last Amtrak passenger train left the station.

During the 1980s, the station was renovated and repurposed into a hotel, shopping center, and place of entertainment. A couple of decades later, there was an expansion to include office space and more entertainment venues.

Brief history

The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis opened Union Station on September 1, 1894. The designer was Theodore Link. The main areas of the station included the Head House, the Midway, and the Train Shed. Initially, the head house included a hotel, restaurant, waiting rooms for passengers, and ticketing offices.

The Grand Hall which cost about $6.5 million was gold-leafed, the arches were Romanesque, and the ceiling was barrel-vaulted. There were also stained-glass windows and a clock tower that stood 230 feet high.

At its opening, it was the world's largest and busiest railroad station and its train shed had the largest roof span in the world.
Union Station was the largest and busiest train station in the world in 1894.National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1903, Union Station had to be expanded to accommodate all the visitors coming into the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

You might recall the famous photo of Harry S. Truman shown over the decades where he's holding up the erroneous Chicago Tribune with a headline that read, "Dewey Defeats Truman." That photo was taken at Union Station in St. Louis.

A full two days after the election, the president was on his way back to Washington from his home in Independence, Mo., when his train stopped in St. Louis. There, someone handed Truman a two-day-old copy of the Tribune. (One version has a staffer serendipitously finding the paper under a seat in the station.) (Source.)

Obviously, passenger services declined as airlines became the preferred way to travel long-distance. The cost to maintain the station became expensive. In the early 1960s, some of the tracks were paved over for parking.

Passenger service was taken over by Amtrak in 1971 which left Union Station in the fall of 1978. Amtrak now operates about a block away at the St. Louis Gateway Station. In 1981, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the station as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

After a massive renovation, Union Station was reopened in 1985 and it included a 539-room hotel, shopping mall, restaurants, and food court. The station now houses the St. Louis Union Station Hotel that's part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.

Today, the city's light-rail transit service, MetroLink, still serves the station from directly below the train shed within the subway tunnel. (Source.)

In 2012, the Union Station was bought by Lodging Hospitality Management. In August 2016, this company announced plans to build an aquarium at the station which has since opened The St. Louis Aquarium is located in what used to be the former mall area.

The station’s train shed area features The St. Louis Wheel, a 200-foot-high observation wheel that houses 42 enclosed gondolas. The 15-minute ride can carry up to eight riders in a gondola providing a personal experience of viewing the skyline of St. Louis.

Also, restaurants like The Train Shed opened in 2019. There are other food options located at the station.

With a massive train station opening in 1894, it's no wonder it's a National Historic Landmark, and it's great to see such a venue being repurposed to serve a large city that historically used to serve as a gateway for travelers.

Thanks for reading!

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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