While in Saint Louis, Jill Martin and I stayed at the Union Station Hyatt Hotel so we had ample opportunity to see the 110 year old National Historic Landmark: the St. Louis Union Station. It was once the largest & busiest passenger rail terminal in the world!
Today it is one of America's great marketplaces and hotels.
Union Station first opened in 1894. When I walked into this massive structure, I was amazed at its size and beauty. From its magnificent 65-foot, barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Grand Hall to its Victorian-engineered train shed (totaling more than eleven acres), Saint Louis Union Station remains an American architectural gem.
It was built at a cost of 6.5 million dollars, and in the 1890's, that was a massive amount of money. The architect was a German-born architect, Theodore C. Link who lived in St. Louis. He won this project by winning a nationwide contest.
His design included three main areas: the Headhouse, the Midway, and the Train Shed.
It's difficult to describe this incredible edifice. It's a mixture of both Richardsonian Romanesque tradition and French Romanesque (or Norman style) Architect Link modeled the grandiose Station after Carcassone, a medieval city in southern France.
You can tell that when you enter the Station's Headhouse and the Grand Hall with its sweeping archways, fresco and gold leaf detailing, mosaics and the art glass windows. The Headhouse is made of Bedford limestone and once contained the ticket office, the waiting rooms, a hotel, & a restaurant. I can just imagine the "stir" it created in 1894.
Today, Grand Hall still awes visitors as the Hyatt Regency Hotel's lobby & lounge area.
Even if you do not stay at the Hyatt Regency or shop here, take a look. What a glorious old building it is as it reflects the grace & opulence of St. Louis architecture in 1894.
And, what a wonderful legacy for Saint Louis preservationists who managed to save an American treasure.
While visiting Saint Louis Union Station, be sure to look at the wonderful "Allegorical Window" in the Grand Hall located in The Headhouse, the first of three main areas in architect Link's design.
It is a hand-made stained glass window with hand-cut Tiffany glass that is positioned above the Station's main entryway. The window features three women who represent the main United States train stations during the 1890's: New York, Saint Louis, and San Francisco. It is magnificent and framed by the famous "Whispering Arch" The end walls were decorated in low relief tracery that also emerges from the female figures in the window.
Note: Don't take a photograph until you have reached the lobby of the the Hyatt Regency Hotel (The Grand Hall) because that is the closest spot for photo taking. I was so awed by the Allegorical masterpiece that I first took the photograph at the bottom of the steps. Once I arrived in the Grand Hall, I realized how much better location it was. The photograph on this page is the second one that I took, and it is so much better than the first one.
The third main area of the historic Saint Louis Union Station is the Train Shed which was designed by architect George H. Pegram. It covered 11.5 acres of sweeping arches! It was the largest single-span train shed ever constructed. It once covered the greatest number of train tracks of any train station in the United States. It covered 32 train tracks and measured 606 feet wide by 810 feet long. It is a Victorian-engineered shed that soars to 140 feet and its massive space is divided by five structural bays.
The Shed, as it is affectionately called, currently houses retail shops, restaurant facilities, a portion of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the lake, event facilities, and the parking areas.
It was close to impossible to take a photograph of this massive structure with my camera, but I was able to take a panoramic that managed to capture most of it.
During the 1950's when many people chose other forms of transportation other than rail, Union Station became less crowded and finally languished for many years until 1978 when the last train pulled out of The Shed, which marked the end of an era.
Thanks goodness preservation-minded individuals had the fortitude to create a new reason to save The Train Shed!
The second main area of architect Link's design was called the Midway. The Midway was the covered transfer area for passengers. It was located just beyond the Headhouse and received its name because it was the midway point where friends would bid farewell or would welcome home visitors from across the USA or from around the world. During the 1940's (which was considered the "heyday" of Union Station), the Midway was the spot where over 100,00 passengers a day walked on their way to or from a train.
The Midway was constructed with a light steel trussed roof of glass and iron which gives the feeling of wide open spaces.
Today, the Midway serves as a passageway filled with about 34 shops and 13 restaurants. Much to my personal dislike, there are also those specialty carts. In addition, there are 18 specialty food and drink locations. CITY Improv is also housed in the Midway section.
Jill and I also enjoyed the St. Louis Union Station Memories Museum.
Here are the names of the places that I recall:
Hard Rock Cafe
Key West Cafe
Route 66 Brewery/Restaurant
The Station Grill
A&W Hot Dogs & MOre
The Candy Station
Mrs. Field's Bakery Cafe
St. Louis Coffee Roasters
St. Louis Daiquiri
B. Dalton Bookseller
Beatles For Sale
Teddy Bear Factory
The Body Shop
It's quite a shopping/eating area indeed!
Station Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 am-9pm
Sunday 10 am-6pm
(The photo was taken by Jill Martin. There was a "fake" caboose for people to take photographs)
There seems to be several Union Stations throughout the county: Chicago; Washington, DC; St. Louis, to name a few. This station, which opened in 1894, was once one of the largest train stations in the world but closed down its operations in 1978 and now works as a marketplace.
This one has a broad, grand, spacious feel and has tons of shops inside as well as the lovely Grand Hall of the Hyatt Regency Hotel attached.
The first 2 photos I took from the balcony of the Grand Hall bar. What a lovely, historic space! The 3rd photo shows the entrance to Union Station where the Megabus drops you off. Also, the bar/restaurant shown on the left is HOPPING at night, even on a Wednesday evening!
Also inside is the restaurant Houlihan's where one may sit outside on the patio, eat, drink, and smoke.
Be forewarned: Union Station does not have luggage lockers! I called ahead of time to find out & because I wasn't staying overnight was forced to bring just a few things in a carryon bag (one I bought at the BHV in Paris - thanks, madaboutparis!)
Photos: May 14, 2008
A well done job transformed an old and useless train station in a commercial complex. The old style was preserved, and all the area was embellished. The big lake is refreshing, and, when I went there, a live demonstration of fisherman without hooks showed the kids the behaviour of fish in the wild.
The only thing I don’t imagine was the effect in the children of one part of the show, when the man picked a small fish in a lateral aquarium, and moved it to the big one, to be swallowed by one of the bigger.
That’s natural behaviour, but for a small kid… to see a small fish running in despair before him until being killed… I don’t know!
Saint Louis Union Station is a National Historic Landmark that used to be one of the busiest train stations in the World. It opened in 1894, but today no train departs from there anymore, it contains mainly shops and restaurants, as well as the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
It actually includes 3 parts. When you enter Union Station, the Headhouse is the first part you see. Then you go down to the Midway, that is now the area containing all the shops and restaurant. A huge area, where I remember walking for hours, entering every little shop :-) And the third part is the Train Shed containing mainly restaurants.
The image I keep of the Union Station is that of an enormous mall set in a marvellous historic building that is worth to be looked closely at !
The "whispering arch" is located just inside the main entry to Union Station. It consists of a person-width indentation in the stone that arches over the 40 ft. wide entry. If you stand in the indentation, facing the wall and your friend stands in the indentation on the other side - 40 ft. away, you can speak as softly a a whisper, and you friend can hear you as if you were standing side by side. It's one of my favorite tricks to play on unknowing visitors.
St. Louis' Union Station was once the largest and busiest passenger rail terminal in the world. Union Station first opened in 1894, but ceased operation as an active train terminal in 1978. Union Station reopened in August of 1985 as a shopping/dining/hotel facility. It retains some of the grandeur of the original train station; however, I was disappointed in the shopping. The stores were low-end, souvenir-type shops, else generic stores. Most of the restaurants seemed to be food court-grade. Perhaps I did not explore the right sections, since I have read very nice things. It was interesting to look around for about 20 minutes, but were it not for the Hard Rock Cafe being right outside, I don't think I would have bothered coming here at all.
It was pretty much of a gimmick to begin with to try and renovated this station, but they had to try. About $300 million later and only 15 years, it is falling apart and traffic down substantially. All the brand name shops have left, to be replaced by T-shirt shops, trinkets, tattoos, ear piercing and of course the picture booth. This type of stuff is not what was intended to turn around the area, but the ethnic element started to hang around here, and the result is this today. It will not change without prohibiting low lives form entering, and that will not happen, but should.
The hotel anchor is still the outstanding feature, but surely its occupancy has gone down substantially too. the most impressive thing to see is the outer shell with its ornate design and limestone facing and tower, dating back to early 1900's
The nicest thing to see when coming here is the hotel and the ornate decorative lobby and ceilings. It was very well preserved just like back in the 1920's era, and the features are simply elegant. Now operated by Marriott
I work across the street from Union Station and am forced to go there for lunch. 10 years ago, this place was bustling. Now, it's limping along barely making it on the lunch money of local workers. A previous tipper stated that the following businesses were located inside, and I wish to update this list:
Hard Rock Cafe
Hooters - GONE
Key West Cafe
Route 66 Brewery/Restaurant - GONE
The Station Grill - GONE
A&W Hot Dogs & MOre - GONE
The Candy Station
Mrs. Field's Bakery Cafe
St. Louis Coffee Roasters -GONE
St. Louis Daiquiri - GONE
Starbucks Coffee - GONE
TCBY - GONE
B. Dalton Bookseller - GONE
Beatles For Sale - GONE
Disney Store - GONE
Perfumania - GONE
Teddy Bear Factory - GONE
The Body Shop - GONE
get the picture? if you are in the area, it's really one of the few choices for a meal. The Hard Rock and Landry's are still there and so is Houlihan's, so it's not horrible. But, your best bet is to get on highway 40/64, and head west to the Galleria.
There are so many things to see and do in St. Louis. We chose three main things, one of which was the restored Union Station. It was about a mile and a half walk from the arch.
We walk almost that much every day so we enjoyed the sights along the way. All you have to do is walk around the Old Courthouse and keep heading West.
We were really amazed at the beauty of the interior and the dazzling shops, hotels, and eating places inside.
We were there right about lunch time and had a bounty of choices for a quick meal.
I definitely would recommend a visit to Union Station.
Union Station was nice if you like shopping! It was an interesting conversion as they attempted to keep the old charm of the station while blending in the new. There were lots of interesting shoppes and eateries!
Downtown, St. Louis Union Station's magnificent Grand Hall is a barrel-vaulted wonder of gilt work, stained glass and statuary. Designed by architect Theodore Link in 1984 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, Union Station was once the largest and busiest passenger rail station in the world. Today, the massive building, which was created to resemble a French fortress, houses a Hyatt Hotel and a marketplace of shops, restaurants and clubs.