Monday, April 24, 2017

Washington Union Station

Passenger train travel works really well from New York to Washington DC.  All in from check in to walking into the city center, train travel is generally faster than flying along the east coast corridor - and cheaper - and more comfortable.  DC and Philadelphia are fortunate to have their classic passenger train stations.  Penn Station in New York, is a 60's vintage disaster.  Grand Central Station in New York is spectacular, but it is all local commuter rail, Amtrak uses Penn Station and it is a nasty mess. I have not been in Philly for a few years, I do hope that the city is working on restoring the station there, it is a great classic.  

Washington Union Station was likely saved from the wrecking ball by being redone as a visitors center for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976.  That remodel also added to the station a Metro Rail Subway station, it is one of the busiest stations in the Metro system.  

In the Mid 70's remodel the main hall had a two story restaurant plunked down in the middle of it, and four large fountain / planters placed around the floor.  The ceiling was damaged a few years ago in an earthquake, and had been under restoration for the past 2- years.  I was in the Station for lunch recently and was amazed, the ceiling restoration is finished, the restaurant and planters have been removed.  The room has been restored to it's original glory.  It is spectacular.  

What is your favorite public space in your town? 


  1. By far DC wins with train stations and travel. In Philly two of the three stations are ok and do their job but 30th Street is still the grande dame. We have done a nice job though remodeling and up dating all the local rail stop along the way.

  2. It's a beautiful building. It was closed in 1981 after part of the roof collapsed. We moved to DC in '83 and saw the sad, derelict building waiting for restoration approvals and funding. We left DC before anything changed but went back several years later to see I beautiful station. I've heard it's changed even more since then and is even more beautiful.

  3. I second both these guys. 30th street (built 1933) is my home base for train travel. union station (built 1908) was a DUMP before the restoration you see today.

    today's history fact - the same architect that built union station also built marshall field's (chicago) and john wanamaker's (philly) department stores - daniel burnham.

  4. It's nice to hear that the repairs to Union Station are completed. I would hope that the they bring back the restaurant at some point.I suppose the food court in the station basement is alive and well.

    3th Street in Philly is much better now when then 30 years ago. I don't know if they can do much more with the station itself. The focus has been developing the area above the railroad yard in recent years.

  5. Well, I can tell you my least favorite place, that being Arundel Mills Mall...what a blight on/of humanity.

    I guess BWI airport is the most interesting place close by, and Baltimore Inner Harbor and Camden Yards Stadium are close by and accessible by Light Rail.

    I used to work within walking distance from Union Station, and would take the MARC train during bad weather, Million Man March, pro-choice rallies, etc.

    One day I was making a quick getaway from work, and saw some dude staggering across the street towards the Capitol.

    Leaned out the window to yell at him, and saw it was Teddy Kennedy!

    "What's up, Teddy!!!"



  6. there is none in PHX

  7. Thank for your very good article! i always enjoy & read the post you are sharing!