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!