Before the construction of this
monumental building Cincinnati had five different depots in and around the
downtown business district. They were the Central Union Station, the
Pennsylvania Station, the Sixth and Baymiller Station, the Court Street Station,
and the Fourth Street Station. There were seven different railroads that used
these depots. The L & N actually shared the use of two different stations.
The conditions were so crowded the trains actually had to back into town. In 1928 the number of passengers entering and leaving
Cincinnati averaged 17,000 to 20,000 daily, and they were handled by 108 inbound
and 108 outbound trains, with the use of about 1,100 passenger cars. Of course
in addition to all this traffic, you also had the massive number of freight
trains. Obviously for the city to continue to grow and
modernize this maze of tracks and depots had to go. Located at 1301 Freeman Avenue this terminal ,
when opened on April 1, 1933, consisted of 22 buildings, 287 acres of railroad
yards, and 94 miles of track. It took 3 1/2 years to complete and cost
$41,000,000. Fill dirt was used to raise an area a quarter of a mile wide by one
and a half miles long by as much as 58' in places. Pilings were driven forty
five to ninety feet deep to support the massive building. ( the first one was gold tipped and
was put in on May 5, 1931). The cornerstone was laid November 20, 1931. It was
dedicated March 31, 1933.
By the 1950s the railroad age was starting to end. The number of trains passing thru had declined to around 60 a day. The terminal began to be regarded as a white elephant. By 1962 there were only 24 trains scheduled daily, and the Terminal Company was losing $6,000,000 annually. In the early 1970s the Federal Government assumed control of rail passenger traffic, and Amtrak consolidated and cut back service. By now only 4 trains a day came to Cincinnati. Finally on October 28, 1972 at 11:30 P. M. the last train left Union Terminal. Amtrak moved to a station along river road. Southern Railway bought the rail yards and in 1973 the famous murals were removed to the airport. Southern received permission to demolish the concourse so that they could use the new piggy-back freight cars. In 1975 the city bought the terminal for 2 dollars, plus $1,000,000 for the land. The city then offered it for lease. A Columbus company leased the building and invested $8,000,000 in renovations and then in 1980 opened as a mall. Unfortunately the country was in its worst recession in forty years and the mall failed.
In 1986 the city passed a bond issue of $8,000,000 to renovate the terminal for use by the Cincinnati Historical Society, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, the Children's Discovery Center, and an Omnimax theatre. The Museum Center opened in November 1990, and Amtrak restored train service in July 1991.
The first proposal for a unified railroad complex was in 1904 and was to be built on West Court Street between Race and Elm (not a postcard). The reason this proposal was not feasible was that too much valuable property would have to be razed for the terminal and all the necessary track.
The second terminal proposal, seen in the
postcards below, came in 1910 and was to be constructed on the north side of
Third Street between Elm and Broadway. The station building was to be fourteen
stories high in
conjunction with a skyscraper office tower 22 stories high. Passengers were to
enter the train station through an arcade that would have been on a level with
Fourth Street. The trains would have been on a elevated concourse 309' wide and
extending 1000' on each side of the arcade and would have been two stories above
street level. Beneath these tracks would have been the tracks for freight cars
and below them would have been warehouse areas. This structure would have not
only handled all railroad traffic but would have also handled all eight
interurbans in service at that time. In this time period there were 276
passenger and 474 freight trains arriving and leaving Cincinnati daily. Can you
imagine what the face of Cincinnati would look like today if these plans would
have been implemented?
Both of these projects fell to the wayside due to the lack of backing from the rail roads, and the local financial interests never materialized, it was estimated that it would have cost $30,000,000 in 1910 money. Obviously locating this depot in the downtown area would not have been a good idea. Of course the solution they finally came up with was CUT-Cincinnati Union Terminal.
These two covers and postcard were issued on March 31, 1933 by the Cincinnati Chamber Of Commerce at the dedication for the Union Terminal. The postcard was cancelled by the R.P.O. (Railroad Post Office) on the Cleveland -Cincinnati route. It was also sent by the Cachet Director to his nephew.
The image below shows the various parts of the terminal at the time of construction. Some of the buildings are drawn in because they were not yet built.
1-The Passenger Station 2-The Plaza Approach 3-Mail Terminal 4-Post Office 5-Express Terminal 6-Coach Yard 7-Engine Terminal 8-Western Hills Viaduct 9-Chesapeake & Ohio of Indiana Connections 10-Southern Yard 11-C. & O. of Indiana Yard 12- Baltimore & Ohio Main Line 14-Gest Street Underpass 15-Bald Knob (source of filling material).
Thanks to Glenn Winningham for sending me these four 1931 photographs taken during the construction of the terminal.
The image above might be the "topping off" ceremony. Anyone know?
All the diagrams below are detailed drawings of the complete terminal complex (Queensgate Yard). The 3rd image is an expanded view of the Queensgate Yard taken from the center image. I have more expanded drawings of some of the other yards seen in the center image. If you are interested in seeing them let me know (drawings are from 2002).
Left Half Right Half Cincinnati RRs (2002)
The first group of cards show the plaza leading up to the domed passenger station. This area is 1400' long and 500' wide. This area replaced Lincoln Park and the fountain, in front of the building, was built to remind people of that park. If you are curious about some of the cards originating from the same photo, check out the clock hands as these were rarely altered. This clock is 30.6 feet in diameter along the outside edge. The big hand is 9 feet, 4 inches long and the little hand is 7 feet, 4 inches long.
Thanks to Scott Kabakoff
The non-postcard image below shows the newly constructed Union Terminal from the South side. I actually reduced this image by one half but it is huge. The second image is Dalton Street that goes under the fountain in front of the Union Terminal building.
The image above shows the main floor plan for Union Terminal. The next section of photos, that were found in the Cincinnati Railroad Club's book "Cincinnati Union Terminal", will contain images of many of the shops, dining areas, and service centers located in the main concourse section of the terminal. To see where they were located you can use the floor plan above. First I will show how visitors entered the terminal other than parking out front and walking in. As you can see in the above floor plan there were 3 vehicle entrances on the right side of the building. The first one, on the right was used by trolley cars that traveled on rails. The middle entrance was used by buses, and the third entrance on the left was used by taxi cabs. Passengers disembarked and walked up a ramp, or stairs, to the main concourse. The empty vehicles then traveled under the floor of the main concourse to the left side where they picked up passengers leaving the terminal.
Taxi unloading area Taxi loading area Entrance from unloading area
I will try and show these images in the order they actually were. Starting with the Rookwood Tea Room and working around the terminal clockwise. The Tea Room was located at the north end of the east wall of the Rotunda Concourse. Both the floor and walls were covered in Rookwood tiles. William Hentschel, a Rookwood artist, did the work. Next to the north wall, on a low platform, sat a large Rookwood vase. This was where the U.S.O. was located during WWII. Some of these photographs were taken prior to their actual use, hence some stores had not yet stocked their shelves.
Rookwood Tea Room Book Room Toy Shop
I do not believe the men and women shops were in the front, but there are two unnamed stores in the floor plan and I do not see them elsewhere so I am just sticking them here for now. Notice the large clock in the theatre so that people did not forget to meet their train.
Men's Shop Women's Shop Entrance to newsreel theatre
Lunch Room Kitchen
Entrance To Main Dining Room Women's Dining Room Lounge
The second photo above obviously is a much later shot showing a different area of the lounge. These murals were by Pierre Bourdelle and were carved out of linoleum.
Telephones Main Telephones Entrance To Barber Shop
FOR MORE OF THESE IMAGES: