Monday, January 2, 2012

Out & About--Finding Film Noir at LA's Union Station

So many metropolitan cities in the United States claim a Union Station, but only one can be considered iconic.  That status is reserved for Los Angeles' Union Station alone.  Appearing in countless movies over the years--from The Way We Were to the finest in film noir and neo noir like Blade Runner--the 1939 landmark is truly in a class of its own.

After years of construction, Union Station first opened in May 1939 in the then heart of Chinatown.  It was badly needed by both the city and state, immediately becoming busy with travelers and the oncoming storm of World War II.  As you'll see from my visit this past week, the buildings look very much the same today as they did then, which is one reason it's been a backdrop for so many movies.  I cannot emphasize enough how awestruck the place made me...the romance of Union Station and its history gave me goosebumps.  I could feel all the people--world famous or otherwise--who had taken the same steps on those tile floors, waited in those same leather-covered seats, grabbed a bite at the restaurant, or sipped a cocktail at the bar. 

Union Station is strikingly beautiful everywhere you look due to its different but highly synergistic architectural styles.  John and Donald Parkinson, along with other architects such as Jan van der Linden, chose Spanish Colonial to be the most prominent in the overall design.  That said, Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Mission Revival also all somehow come into play as well.  It's a combination that works well and successfully showcases much of what I love about Southern California style.  

My time at Union Station was during a warm and sundrenched day and the station was really dressed and done up for the holidays.  You couldn't have asked for more from a visit.  So until you can go in person, or want to remind yourself of its grandeur, come on this walking tour with me through the hallowed halls of LA's Union Station.  Happy New Year!

Under construction December 22, 1935 (with City Hall and the Hall of Justice in background)
and then Opening Day May 4, 1939 onward (below)

Descriptions on the architectural design and construction of Union Station (above)
and declaration of the place as a Historic Monument

Entering the front doors of Union Station to find it decorated for the holidays

Moorish accents are another part of its design, including carved on the original front doors

The original ticketing area, which is now reserved for private parties

It's Chinatown--1960s red mockneck shift dress, 1960s red leather frame bag, 
Guess nude patent peeptoe pumps, silver hoop earrings, vintage silver bangle, gold skinny bangle bracelets

Side doors take you to the original Harvey House
part of the first restaurant chain in the U.S. and were often located at train stations

Many know Harvey House for its waitresses, known as the Harvey Girls
which MGM turned into a musical with Judy Garland in 1942

Inside the Harvey House in the early days and, though closed to the public today, 
you can sit in the original booths when you reserve the space for a party

The original bar off the side of Harvey House 
with its leather padded doors

Back in the lobby at the information booth...classic and perfect

Entrance to the current Traxx bar (above)
and detail of the tile in the wall

Mustard-colored archway leading from the lobby to the waiting area
and the new Traxx restaurant alongside

The archway in 1939, not long after Union Station opened

Waiting area on December 12, 1939

Detail of the incredible wood ceiling with Art Deco lighting

And what about these amazing weathered brown leather chairs?
Straight out of film noir, to be sure.

Heading out to the wartime rush hour trains April 14, 1942 (above)
and the original floor is still there

Trains still roll into Union Station on its 12 railroad tracks

See much of the interior in this trailer for 1950's Union Station

Time to say goodbye to Union Station

City Hall (designed by same architects as Union Station) seen from parking lot (above) 
and the original Hall of Justice also nearby

Some of the Los Angeles skyline on my way home to Santa Monica at sunset

Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for use of the historic photos!


Marline said...

Holy mackerel! That shot of you gazing about in your fire-engine red dress is KILLER, Kimberly! I cannot believe that I'm here, watching a tardy snowfall, swathed in cashmere turtleneck, while you're gallivanting about in a sleeveless dress! How wonderful you look and what a terrific report! I can't wait to visit that historic train station when I visit in the Spring! Simply a grand way to spend the 2nd of January, my friend! Thanks so much!! It was a welcome sunny patch in my wintery Jan NY day!
Hugs, Kay

Kevinb Osborne said...

Well done Kimberly! This is a great article accompanied by excellent photos, both past and present, of a classic Los Angeles landmark that is often under appreciated. The shot of the Information Booth could have come straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Melissa Clark said...

I took the train from Anaheim to Union Station when I was in California last Spring. What a beautiful train station it is. I was a little too frazzled trying to get to the right place and meet a friend to fully take it all in, so seeing your pictures and reading about the station's history is a lovely reminder. You look beautiful in that red dress, too! Like Kay I'm especially impressed that you're sleeveless in January. It's not even warm enough for that in Houston at the moment.


Howard said...

Great photos of a unique building. The Spanish colonial style,so appropriate for Southern California. Great detailing in the ceiling and I like the way the shadow of the palm trees falls on the wall and the clock tower in the setting sun. So good to see buildings like this being prserved and continuing to be used.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thank you, Howard! I really appreciate the compliments to my photography. And I couldn't agree with you more...Union Station is such a great role model for showing how to both honor a building's history while actively using it in the present. Hoping that others--especially in Los Angeles--will learn the lesson.

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