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A More Perfect Union: 1908

A More Perfect Union: 1908

Circa 1908. "New Pennsylvania [Union] Station, Washington, D.C." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Union Station

This photo of D.H. Burnham's magnificent building was probably taken from the north end of the roof of the then-new Senate Office Building (later the Old Senate Office Building, now the Russell Senate Office Building), designed by Carrere and Hastings of New York and built in 1903 to 1908. I spent 10 years in there, working for the Armed Services Committee, on the south (Constitution Avenue) side of the building. The Committee's restored hearing rooms are wonderful examples of American Beaux-Arts at its most lavish.

Saved From Ruin

Looking at it now, it's hard to believe such a grand building came close ruin. The station was converted into a visitors center in the mid-seventies, which caused a lot of damage to many of the finer architectural features of the interior. When that failed the building was abandoned. By the early eighties it was a rat-infested mess with significant damage. The federal government could have easily walked away and let it fall into a state beyond repair. Fortunately, Congress authorized the purchase of the building and ponied up the cash to turn it into what it is today, which is magnificent.

I Was There

Not in 1908, but two years ago, and it is still one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever had the privilege to wander in.

Even the façade looks similar to then.

So many travel choices

Great photo showing three modes of transportation (besides the train, of course). The old horse drawn cabs on the left of the photo, the new automobile cabs on the far right, and the electric trolley. What a wonderful era for travel.

Lots of time

We seem to be looking almost due North, across Columbus Circle. Judging from the shadows, it's early morning, probably late Spring or early Summer.
Long layover 'till quarter to four!

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