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Union Station, Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles’ Union Station is the last of the “great stations” built in America; it opened its doors in 1939 and, within its highly celebrated first three days, accommodated over 1.5 million visitors.  Although it is considered small in size when compared to other “great stations”, it is an architectural gem.  For more images, please browse my Photo Gallery here.

Located next to historic Olvera Street (considered the birthplace of Los Angeles), the station and its grounds occupy the land that was formerly “Old Chinatown”.  Designed by the father and son team of John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson (who also designed the Los Angeles  City Hall and other landmarks), the exterior of the building combines “Dutch Colonial Revival Style architecture (the suggestion of the Dutch born Jan von der Linden), Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style, with architectural details such as eight-pointed stars”. (www.wikipedia.com) Its interior is surprisingly dark and somber despite the large arched windows that line the expansive waiting room on both sides.    While one would expect a large amount of echo in such a cavernous space, the architects accounted for this by lining the upper walls with cork made from recycled corncobs.  Featuring impressive details such as Terra Cotta floors inlaid with Travertine marble and  a ceiling that reaches over 50 feet high, the cavernous space is remarkably quiet and feels more like a church than a busy transportation hub.

Los Angeles’ Union Station  served as home to the very last Harvey House Restaurant to be built as part of a railroad station.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was forced to close in 1967 due to its inability to turn a profit; with the increasing popularity of travel by air and automobile, the great railways experienced a sharp decline.  There are fabulous images of and a more detailed history about Union Station’s Harvey House here.

Happily, there is a resurgence in the popularity of not only railway travel, but in the utilization of public transportation in general.  Union Station thrives and bustles;  it’s not only a hub for long-distance services like Amtrak and MetroLink,  but also for local rail and bus transit as well.  Even more exciting is that Union Station is planned to be a major hub for the future California High-Speed Rail System.   When it’s finished, passengers will be able to get from Los Angeles’ Union Station to the planned Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in about 2-1/2 hours!!!  I can’t wait.

I love LA.

Posted June 18th, 2011.

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