Mary Lim

Thursday, October 09, 2014

narrative: union station

This here is an old photograph of Union Station.
Mercedes, Marie, Janie and I went to Union Station to take some pictures. As we went at night, there weren't as many people around, but this allowed us to see the space in its entirety. Everything was dimly lit, and blue light was cast on the walls in honor of the Royals. It was smaller than I expected, but the height of the ceilings were definitely the most striking. There were many possible areas to place our interactive piece, and most of the pictures posted here are possible locations of where we could potentially install it. 


The history goes back to 1878 with the completion of the Union Depot in the West Bottoms. A major flood in 1903 inundated the old depot, disrupted service for days, and convinced city leaders and rail executives that another train station must be built on higher ground. Thus was born the idea of Union Station. 
Twelve of the railroads serving the city united to form the Kansas City Terminal Railway in order to establish a new station. Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt was chosen to design the new facility. Excavation of the site began in 1911 and the new station was opened for business on October 30, 1914. Union Station was designed in the grand tradition of beaux-arts architecture, popular in Europe and the United States in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The massive 850,000 square foot terminal was the third largest train station in America at the time of its completion. With the destruction of Penn Central Station in the 1960's, Union Station became number two. Only Grand Central Terminal in New York City is larger. 
The entire Union Station complex included ten levels, and originally had 900 rooms. The North Waiting Room (now called Sprint Festival Plaza) is 350 feet long. Ten thousand people can assemble under its 65-foot ceiling. The Grand Hall measures some 200 feet by 100 feet and features a 95-foot, ornately decorated ceiling. 
It is difficult to overstate the significance of Union Station to Kansas City, to the region, and to the United States. Someone estimated that half of all the US soldiers in World War II passed through the building. Given its central geographic location, its sheer size, and its capability to handle huge numbers of trains and passengers, that is probably about right. 
One result of the Union Station massacre June 17, 1933 was the FBI being given vastly enhanced powers to battle crime within the United States. Citizens and Congress were outraged and appalled at the daylight gunfight that led to the deaths of five men and wounded two. The ambitious J. Edgar Hoover used this incident to fortify his fledgling agency. 
The coming of age of the automobile and the airplane meant vastly decreased demand for passenger rail service in the United States. Consequently, train activity declined dramatically. Nearly 300 trains arrived and departed Union Station on one day in 1917, and passenger traffic hit a record 678,363 travelers during the World War II year of 1945. By 1973, only six trains a day passed through the terminal. Amtrak (National Passenger Railroad Corporation), the quasi-government agency that operates the only nationwide people-carrying trains, conducted operations out of Union Station from 1971 to 1985. The rail company then moved into its own small building, located around the corner from the station on Main Street. It was unflatteringly dubbed the "Amshack," by railfans. 
Now the future of Union Station becomes even bleaker, as the last restaurant, The Lobster Pot, closes in 1989. The building sits empty and alone; rain, winter freezes and thaws, homeless persons and all manner of infestations inflict further damage. Large chunks of plaster fall from the Grand Hall ceiling without warning. Union Station is declared a dangerous building. 
Beginning in 1988, the city of Kansas City, Missouri became embroiled in a protracted lawsuit with Trizec Corporation, owners of the adjacent One and Two Pershing Square buildings. Trizec had pledged to restore the Station as part of a redevelopment project for the area, but never followed through. The city sued, and legal wrangling continued until 1994, when the two litigants agreed to settle out of court. 
A non-profit organization, The Union Station Assistance Corporation was born to begin the restoration of Union Station. Andy Scott took the job as director, and as the project moved along, Scott was primarily responsible for preserving as much of the original Station as possible, a task that he accomplished admirably. 
Nearly $100 million in private funds had already been secured when the historic Bistate Tax initiate passed in 1996. For the first time ever in America, voters united across the state lines of Kansas and Missouri to levy a one-eighth-cent retail sales tax to raise more than $118 million to rescue their beloved Union Station. The final cost of restoration exceeded $250 million. 
The main feature of this newly restored Union Station was to be Science City, an interactive experience aimed at youngsters and consisting of more than 63 hands-on experiments and exercises. There were also shops, restaurants, an Extreme Screen theater, a live performance theatre and a planetarium. Amtrak moved back into the station in December of 2002 and immediately began running six trains a day, the same number it had been operating before it left the station in 1989. 
The Union Station reopened November 10, 1999.
info from this website:

found video on union station site

1 comment:

  1. Include citations when you use material you didn't author.