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Union Station: 1908

Washington, D.C., circa 1908. "New Union Station." Idyllically uncongested. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1908. "New Union Station." Idyllically uncongested. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Like Dulles Airport in 1964

I remember it sitting in the middle of nowhere just like this. But unlike Dulles, which was built ahead of its time, Union Station was way overdue. It was part of the "Washington Improvement" which eliminated two existing depots [including one on the Mall] and many dangerous grade crossings.

I recently found this website

which is telling the whole story of Union Station. It is the dissertation of a gentleman named Bill Wright.

Almost Lost It

What's really amazing is how close we came to losing this wonderful building. By the early 1970's (when the building was only 60+ years old), it had become a dingy, leaking, dilapidated, rat-infested, sadly neglected dump that was very close, more than once, to being just bulldozed so we could put another dreadful soul-deadening government office building on the site, with what remained of the so-called "train station" buried under ground somewhere. Train travel in the USA is still a shadow of what it should be (the DC-Boston corridor being one small, very modest exception), but at least we have managed to save places like this, as well as Grand Central Terminal in NY City, and South Station in Boston, along with a few scattered others.

Great photo!

Beautiful building

Inside and out. One of the highlights of my trip to DC a couple years ago was eating breakfast there. Looks so different without all the trees and surrounding buildings - and all those cabs and double-decker tour buses waiting out front.

Still awesome!

I'm a frequent user of Amtrak and have seen the best and the worst of their stations. Washington in my book is the best of the best. I always have a layover in DC on my way back to Oregon and I actually look forward to it, unlike Chicago!

Missing Persons

Just realized that the statues on top of the columns at the front entrance had not yet been installed when this shot was taken (1974).

Just opened

I believe that this was just at the time that the station opened. First PRR train was in 1908.

Oh my goodness!

A poor title comment but I'm kind of speechless, perhaps because I've been through this station so many times; what a difference 100 years can make. For any who don't know, the finale of the movie Silver Streak was based on an actual crash into this station by a runaway 447,000 pound PRR locomotive pulling a passenger train. With brakes failed, it was headed for the Great Hall when fortunately the floor collapsed and the engine ended up in the basement. The sturdy GGI was soon back in service and no one was hurt. Gee, I wonder if Shorpy has any photos of that 1953 event?!

Bottom left

Above the horse. Are those two coats hanging on the poles? Probably wouldn't get away with that today.

Urban renewal

The foreground dramatically illustrates how the Union Station project was used to clear out the slums north of the U.S. Capitol. Then they had to decide what to do with the cleared land: one proposal would have put the Lincoln Memorial there. Today it's a park--though actually the emphasis seems more on parkING.

I wonder

if anyone heading to catch a train said, "Why'd they put it in the middle of nowhere!"

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