The original Union Station was the country’s first “union” passenger rail station — constructed in 1853. Though it was demolished + rebuilt 30 years later, it remains an impressive structure in the heart of downtown.
So what’s happening with Union Station now + what did it look like in its heyday?
Downtown’s current Union Station at 39 Jackson Place was frequented by many prominent figures, including presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman + Dwight D. Eisenhower.
By the numbers, it:
- Cost $1 million to build
- Serviced nearly 500,000 passengers monthly at its peak
- Had 12 tracks to board
- Brought almost 200 trains through daily
Much like Indy’s streetcar system, the passenger trains that once flowed through the station became unpopular with the rise of automobiles after World War II. The place was close to empty by 1980, but six years later it was overhauled by local developer Bob Borns, costing $65 million. It was privatized + restored into the Festival Marketplace, full of restaurants and boutiques. However, crowds began to dwindle when the Circle Centre Mall opened in 1995.
Now, the station houses a hotel, entertainment venue, event center + office spaces. You can find Amtrak and Greyhound trains and buses running from a modern hub just south of Union Station (335 S. Illinois St.), but no part of the old building serves its original purpose.
A new addition to the station this year, Nevermore is an Edgar Allen Poe-themed venue with duckpin bowling, live music, a rooftop bar, and upscale food. The 25,000 sqft space opened just a couple of months ago in the spots formerly occupied by Cadillac Ranch + Bartini’s.
Though you can’t travel to Chicago from Union Station anymore, you can still travel through time at The Grand Hall, which is an event venue that pays homage to the building’s rich history. The terrazzo floors, arches, columns + glass wagon wheel windows are on full display in the space, which can accommodate up to 600 guests.