Union Station: Overview

Introduction Credits:
Randolph H. Lytton, Pim van den Assum

Introduction Date:

Introduction Text:
Union Station (1908) is located at Massachusetts and Louisiana, N.E. Daniel H. Burnham & Co. designed this magnificent railroad station and Louis Saint-Gaudens sculpted the allegorical figures gracing the front. Burnham and Lorado Taft then added the Columbus Fountain (1912) to the Plaza. The landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. In 1988 Harry Weese & Associates undertook some renovation which included new retail space.

In creating this monumental structure, Daniel Burnham combined two classical architectural forms: the exterior triumphal arch serves as a gateway to the railroad station, where the interior space has been configured in the form of an ancient Roman public bath (Moeller, pp. 41-42; Scott & Lee, pp. 140-145). The striking triumphal arch was based on the famous Arch of Constantine, and the interior waiting room was modeled after the Baths of Diocletian in ancient Rome. To see a variation of the three-arched triumphal entry see the entrance of the Organization of the American States/Pan-American Union headquarters (1910).

Above the exterior neoclassical Ionic columns are six 18-foot classical heroic figures representing themes important to the railroad industry: (from east to west) a statue of Vesta (sometimes wrongly identified as Prometheus) represents fire, Thales represents electricity, Themis represents freedom and justice, Apollo represents knowledge and imagination, Ceres represents agriculture and Archimedes represents mechanics.

Document List

Union Station, Washington, D.C. (no date)
The New Union Station at Washington was built by the U.S. Government and the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The cost of the land, building and terminal improvements was $18,000,000. The structure is the finest railway station in the world. The building of white granite, is 760 feet in length and 343 feet in width.
Waiting Room, New Union Station, Washington, D. C. (no date)
The New Union Station was built by the United States Government and the Pa. Railroad and B. & O. Railroad. The cost of the land, building and improvements was $18,000,000. The building is made of white granite, 760 feet in length and 343 feet in width. The structure is considered the finest and largest railway station in the world.