St. Louis Union Station, once the largest and busiest passenger rail terminal in the world, is now one of America’s great historic destinations. Union Station first opened in 1894, but ceased operation as an active train terminal in 1978. Union Station reopened in August of 1985 as the largest adaptive re-use project in the United States. In October 2012, St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management, Inc. purchased the property and is currently in the midst of a multi-phase, $30 million renovation including the hotel, meeting rooms, exhibit space, retail, outdoor space and the return of excursion trains.
Today, this 120 year-old National Historic Landmark of unmatched beauty and elegance is home to the 539-room St. Louis Union Station Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, luxury offices, dozens of shops and restaurants, a lake and plaza for festivals, concerts and other special events. And, of course, the stunning Grand Hall is a destination in its own rite.
A Brief History of St. Louis Union Station
In 1889, The Terminal Railroad Association was formed for the purpose of consolidating the numerous railway entries and exits of the St. Louis area. This Association set as its primary goal to build a new Union Station. St. Louis architect and former railroader, Theodore C. Link, designed three main areas: the Headhouse, the Midway and the Train Shed. The Headhouse contained the Terminal Hotel, ticket offices, waiting rooms, a restaurant and offices for the Pullman and Terminal Railroad Association Companies. The Midway was the covered transfer area for passengers. The Train Shed was a large, roofed area covering the loading platforms and track.
On September 1, 1894 St. Louis Union Station opened as the largest, most beautiful terminal in the United States. This enormous project was built at the cost of $6.5 million. The gem of this new Station was the Grand Hall with its gold leaf, Romanesque arches, 65-foot barrel vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows. The most magnificent of these stained glass windows is the “Allegorical Window” which is majestically framed by the famous “Whispering Arch.”
Just beyond the Head house was the Midway, which was the midway point where friends bid farewell or welcomed home visitors from across the nation and around the world. In its heyday in the mid 1940’s, the Midway was the spot where over 100,000 passengers a day traversed on their way to or from a train. The platform area was covered by an enormous single-span train shed designed by George H. Pegram. This was not only one of the largest train sheds ever built, but it also covered the greatest number of tracks. After World War II, the general public began choosing other forms of transportation. In 1976, this magnificent station was designated a National Historic Landmark. Finally, on October 31, 1978, the last train pulled out of St. Louis Union Station.
In March 1979, Oppenheimer Properties purchased the Station for $5.5 million. In August of 1985, St. Louis Union Station reopened after $150 million restoration, making it the largest adaptive re-use project in the United States. Current owner, Lodging Hospitality Management, Inc., is currently renovating and modifying the entire property…preparing this historic gem for the next phase of its story.
Interested in learning more? Visit the “Memories Museum,” located on the second level. Founded as a joint venture by St. Louis Station Associates and the Museum of Transportation, the museum is dedicated to preserving the rich history of St. Louis Union Station, the railroads that served it and the people who experienced the romance of rail travel. The Museum is free to the general public and is open during St. Louis Union Station’s operating hours.