Chicago Union Station in Chicago

Photo of Chicago Union Station in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Chicago Union Station in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Chicago Union Station in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

Chicago, Illinois

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Chicago Union Station
Formerly:Second Chicago Union Station

210 South Canal Street, Chicago, Illinois, West Loop 60606
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Quick Facts
  • 1990: A plan was floated to build two 26-story towers on the top of this building. It did not come to fruition.
  • September, 2010: This building was named #25 on Chicago Magazine's list of the Top 40 Buildings in Chicago.
  • This building was designed to eventually have an office tower constructed on top.
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  Unfortunately, the existing building is only half of Union Station. The west building is a pleasant enough neoclassical structure from the days when a railway station was expected to be a civic monument. Its Great Hall is one of the most magnificent interior spaces in Chicago; but it lies outside the main flow of pedestrian traffic from the street to the trains. The original concourse building between Canal Street and the River was demolished in 1969 to make way for what is now the Fifth Third Center, and the station has never worked very well since. At the time, conventional wisdom was that intercity rail passenger service had no future. Thus, the below-street portions of the replacement structure were designed with only rushing commuters in mind, who would presumably have little need for waiting areas. The new building was supported by a forest of pillars filled in with rather tacky restaurant and retail space. Interior walls between the train gates were grim cinder blocks.Then. in 1971, along came Amtrak, sparking a modestly successful upsurge in intercity passengers, whose station needs were significantly different from those of commuters. A major renovation circa 1993 tried with only partial success to remedy this: a new Amtrak waiting area and first-class lounge were added in former restaurant space near the gates; Amtrak and commuter ticket windows were separated, and new ramps constructed from the commuter ticket area down to the gates. A new auxiliary commuter entrance to the north platforms was built at Madison Street. Decoratively, a lot of beige and dark greenish stonework with Deco bright-metal accents went into the renovated areas, though there was still little visual connection with the 1925 Great Hall. Two decades later, the station's capacity is once again reaching its limits, and some further expansion, perhaps a satellite terminal in the old Main Post Office, may be needed.

Alan Follett - Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 @ 11:39am  


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