Cincinnati Union Terminal - CUT


  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.

Proposed Union Terminal-1905 W Court ST.jpg (847952 bytes)


   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.

Proposed terminal-1.jpg (104789 bytes)        Proposed terminal-2.jpg (92604 bytes)        Proposed terminal-3.jpg (103865 bytes)        Proposed Terminal.jpg (99629 bytes)*


Union Terminal Dedication.jpg (564968 bytes)    Union Terminal Dedication back.jpg (391102 bytes)            Union Terminal dedication.jpg (126369 bytes)        Union Terminal Dedication.jpg (167934 bytes)

   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.

CUT sections.jpg (601442 bytes)

   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).


CUT 1931 (1).jpg (565760 bytes)    CUT 1931 (2).jpg (652585 bytes)    CUT 1931 (3).jpg (481068 bytes)    CUT 1931 (4).jpg (624002 bytes)

   Thanks to Glenn Winningham for sending me these four 1931 photographs taken during the construction of the terminal.


Union Terminal during build.jpg (454109 bytes)

   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).

Map-left half.jpg (284967 bytes)Map-right half.jpg (282791 bytes)                2002 RR Map.jpg (1170382 bytes)            2002 Expanded RR Map.jpg (538928 bytes)
Left Half                          Right Half                               Cincinnati RRs (2002)               


BEV CUT.jpg (725522 bytes)

  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.

Union Terminal-a.jpg (121892 bytes)            Union Terminal-b.jpg (123137 bytes)            Union Terminal-c.jpg (133295 bytes)            Union Terminal-d.jpg (129496 bytes)


Union Terminal-e.jpg (107770 bytes)            Union Terminal-f.jpg (95895 bytes)            Union Terminal-g.jpg (108204 bytes)            Union Terminal-h.jpg (136950 bytes)


Union Terminal-i.jpg (71679 bytes)            Union Terminal-j.jpg (104256 bytes)            Union Terminal-k.jpg (107398 bytes)            Union Terminal-l.jpg (100462 bytes)


Union Terminal-m.jpg (115370 bytes)            Union Terminal-n.jpg (113994 bytes)            Union Terminal-o.jpg (96995 bytes)            Union Terminal-p.jpg (90555 bytes)


Union Terminal-q.jpg (105703 bytes)            Union Terminal-r.jpg (93651 bytes)            Union Terminal-nz.jpg (315935 bytes)            Union Terminal-s.jpg (111162 bytes)


Union Terminal-t.jpg (80144 bytes)            Union Terminal-u.jpg (81605 bytes)            Union Terminal-v.jpg (93362 bytes)            Union Terminal-w.jpg (93478 bytes)


Union Terminal-x.jpg (100199 bytes)            Union Terminal-y.jpg (82665 bytes)            Union Terminal-z.jpg (75972 bytes)            CUT ser.jpg (275289 bytes)


Union Terminal-1.jpg (120659 bytes)            Union Terminal-2.jpg (148858 bytes)            Union Terminal-3.jpg (110385 bytes)            Union Terminal-4.jpg (129493 bytes)


CUT Silver.jpg (411288 bytes)            Unionterminal.jpg (564642 bytes)*
                                                    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.

CUT South Side.jpg (1160755 bytes)                        cut10.jpg (154614 bytes)


Floor Plan Main Level.jpg (742479 bytes)

   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.jpg (226935 bytes)                Taxi loading area.jpg (224857 bytes)                Doors to taxis.jpg (269418 bytes)
            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. 

Tea Room.jpg (386700 bytes)        CUT-Rookwood Tearoom.jpg (474728 bytes)        Book Shop.jpg (181349 bytes)        Toy Shop.jpg (300112 bytes)
                  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.jpg (323834 bytes)        Women's Shop.jpg (308320 bytes)        Newsreel Theater Entrance.jpg (227655 bytes)        Newsreel Theater.jpg (218540 bytes)
    Men's Shop                  Women's Shop                        Entrance                          to  newsreel theatre


Sandwich Shop toward cashier.jpg (469668 bytes)    Sandwich Shop-2.jpg (515898 bytes)    CUT Lunchroom.jpg (142084 bytes)    Sandwich Shop-3.jpg (292058 bytes)    Kitchen.jpg (228105 bytes)
                                                      Lunch Room                                                                                           Kitchen


Main Dining Room-Entrance.jpg (525528 bytes)            Main Dining Room.jpg (245082 bytes)                        Women's Room Lounge.jpg (346687 bytes)
                  Entrance                     To Main Dining Room                         Women's Dining Room Lounge


Womens Dining Room Lounge.jpg (368781 bytes)        Ladies Lounge CUT murals.jpg (404114 bytes)
Women's 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.


Women's Room Lounge Telephones.jpg (423863 bytes)    Main Telephone Room.jpg (128343 bytes)    Barber Shop Entrance.jpg (329918 bytes)    Barber Shop.jpg (315292 bytes)    CUT Barber Shop 1933.jpg (73685 bytes)
Telephones               Main Telephones                        Entrance         To                                Barber Shop                   
Women's Lounge                                                                                                                                                                             


CUT Game Room.jpg (68658 bytes)
Game Room