Union Station - Blow Out Those Candles, You Are 80!

Tina Lerno, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
Union Station in 2005
The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, known now as Los Angeles Union Station in 2005. Photo credit: Gary Leonard, Los Angeles Photographers Collection

Happy 80th birthday Union Station!

Built in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” It is considered one of L.A.’s greatest architectural gems, and rightfully so. Commissioned in 1933 to consolidate the various railroad companies that ran out West, it was designed by the father-son architect team of John and Donald Parkinson with an" innovative blend of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, and Art Deco architecture". Completed in 1939 for a whopping eleven million dollars, it made its opulent debut with a three-day shindig attended by half a million people including celebrities and politicians of the day. There were parades, speeches, and even a railroad-themed play, (tickets were $1). Angelenos know how to throw a party!

Take a look at Union Station now and then and see if you can tell how much "work" this regal lady has had.

Exterior view of Los Angeles Union Station
Union Station with numerous palm trees, arched windows, and the tower and clock, which reads 2:56 pm. In 1980 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, Building #80000811, [2005]. Photo credit: Gary Leonard, Los Angeles Photographers Collection
Union Station front entrance, 1939
Exterior view of Union Station, showing the front entrance and clock on it's tower, [n.d.]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Passenger drop off at Union Station
Passenger drop off at Union Station, [ca. 1939]. Photo credit: Herman J Schultheis, Los Angeles Photographers Collection 
people on a train in a dining car
Union Pacific's new Astra Dome dining car was shown for the first time recently at the Union Pacific station and will go into service this month. Big windows allow diners to view all the country along scenic routes, [1955]. Valley Times Collection
Union Station under construction
View of Union Station under construction October 13, 1937, uniting at one terminus all rail lines and passengers coming and going from Los Angeles. Herald Examiner Collection
Union Station employees
Group portrait of the Union Station employees, [ca.1940]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Inspecting Union Station tile
Photo of art consultant, Herman Sachs, shown inspecting some of the tile work at Union Station, [1939]. Herald Examiner Collection
Waitress at Harvey House, Union Station
A waitress stands behind the cash register counter at the Harvey House restaurant in Union Station. A white model of a locmotive engine is displayed in front of her. A partial view of cigar boxes is also diplayed in the counter in the foreground. Restaurant was built in 1933-1939 by architects Donald and John Parkinson. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Harvey House in Union Station
Interior view of the Harvey House Restaurant in Union Station. Built in 1933-39, it was designed by architects Donald and Charles Parkinson. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Union Station celebration
Wang Loy and Lion Boys at the Union Station celebration on May 3, 1939. Photo credit: Harry Quillen, Los Angeles Photographers Collection
Union Station parade
Chinese floats in the Union Station opening day parade on May 3, 1939. One says it carries the largest piece of glass ever cast. The float has a display of Chinese railroad workers laying track. Photo credit: Harry Quillen, Los Angeles Photographers Collection
Union Station parade
A float carrying Mexican Americans participates in the parade celebrating the grand opening of Union Station on May 3, 1939. A sign on the float reads, "Fiesta Days Olvera Street." Photo credit: Harry Quillen, Los Angeles Photographers Collection

Only Known Footage of L.A. Union Station Opening, courtesy of Metro and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in cooperation with the family of Ward Kimball

Further Reading


Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the Future
Bradley, Bill

Los Angeles Union Station

Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA: A Series of Essays


 

 

 

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