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Saint Louis Union Station

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Saint Louis Union Station

The Saint Louis Union Station (Figure 1), located on Market Street between the 18th Street and the 20th Street in downtown Saint Louis, was built in 1894 to be used as a train shed and transportation for travelers. This enabled the travelers to get around whether it is around St. Louis, around the United States, and even into Canada. The architect of the St. Louis Union Station is a German-American man named Theodore C. Link after he had won the design competition for the need of building a bigger and better train station. The original owner who pushed for the building of this bigger train station is William Taussig. William Taussig wanted a big and grandeur train station that would rival against the bigger train stations such as those that was in New York or Chicago. St. Louis Union Station could have up to 18 trains at once inside the train station ready to go to other places (Figure 2). There were 32 train tracks outside of the train shed so there was lot of traffic and passengers that would come into the Union Station every day. However, as more technically innovations occurred such as airplanes, trains going around the country were being used less by the people who opted to travel in different ways. This led to the demise of train services at the Union Station with the last train pulling out of the Union Station on October 31, 1978. The St. Louis Union Station then fell into a state of disuse and disrepair until 1985 when plans for renovations occurred costing up to a total of $150 million dollars. After a much needed repair and restoration on construction of the structural integrity of the building along with the restoration of the decorations, both interior and exterior wise, by artisans and craftsmen, the St. Louis Union Station is now a bustling building fully of shops, restaurants, small amusements, and it also includes a grand hotel by the name of Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The architecture of St. Louis Union Station is an eclectic mix of Romanesque styles. The Station's interior and exterior details are a combination of both Richardsonian Romanesque tradition and French Romanesque or Norman style. The architect, Theodore Link, modeled the Union Station after Carcassone, a walled, medieval city in southern France. The Union Station, in general, has three section: the East Pavilion with its 230 feet clock tower, the Central Pavilion with the principal entrances, and the hotel block on the west end. The exterior side of the building is faced with Bedford limestone on the Market Street and the 18th Street sides while the south and west walls are of gray brick above the roof and of Roman brick below the roof of the train shed. Originally the roof was covered with grey Spanish tiles to match the limestone but in 1956, the roof was replaced with red tiles.

The eastern pavilion is massive and square with its tall peaked steep sloping roof. The northwest corner extends vertically into a 230 feet clock tower which was essential for train stations. There is a slightly taller and thinner tower that buttresses the northwest corner of the tower.

The hotel block was originally the western end of the headhouse (which was part of the central pavilion) but Theodore wanted it to stand out more to indicate it as the station that marks as the gateway to the west so the western end was extended out further. It extended from its original building dimensions lengthwise on Market Street from 455 feet to 606 feet thus making it longer when looking at it from the front. Inside the hotel block on the first floor, there is a corridor that connects to the dining room in the central pavilion.

The central pavilion has the principal entrance with ramps approaching from Market Street to allow people access to the first floor. Originally there used to be a porte cochere (Figure 3) for horse carriages and then later on cars to drop off people at the first floor entrance but it was removed when Market Street was expanded to accommodate the growing population in downtown St. Louis. Above the main entrance and the two openings on either side are segmental arches. There is a row of seven matching round arched windows with art glass panels that extend through the second and third levels above the entrance openings. Above the windows are three dormers on the northern slope of the roof. It is ornamented with pinnacles, finials, and stone carvings, either in high or low relief (Figure 4). At the northeast and northwest sides of the central pavilion stands matching cylindrical towers with conical roofs. Each of these towers contains a stairway and an elevator.

Entering inside of the Union Station, one can see lot of artistic detailing throughout the interior on the ceilings, walls, windows, and lighting. Perhaps the most spectacular view can be found when entering the Headhouse in the central pavilion into what is called the Grand Hall (Figure 5). On the interior side above the main entrance stands a big hand-made stained glass window with hand-cut Tiffany glass and this can be called the Ð''Allegorical Window" (Figure 6). The window features three women who represent the main United States train stations during the 1890's: New York, Saint Louis, and San Francisco. The woman representing Saint Louis is in the middle with the courthouse behind her. There are other magnificent art works in the form of sculptures, frescos, and mosaics. One well known fresco called "Arch of Whispers" is a 40 feet arch found on one wall in the Grand Hall and it is rumored to be where a whispered word travels over the arch and can be heard distinctly on the other side. As for sculptures, there were lot of what can be referred as maidens (Figures 7 and 8) and they are usually on the grand staircase

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