Monday, March 23, 2015

This is Union Terminal, an iconic symbol of Cincinnati and one of the most significant Art Deco structures in the country.

The building began construction in 1928, and opened in 1933. It was one of the largest train terminals in the U.S., with the ability to service 216 passenger trains a day.

The architects were Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner, with Paul Philippe Cret and Roland Wank credited as design consultants. (Cret is responsible for the building's Art Deco style.) The station's Rotunda is the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet (55 m) wide and 106 feet (32 m) high.

The glass mosaic murals in the Rotunda are by Winold Reiss, and depict the history of Cincinnati and the United States.

The fountain in front of Union Terminal features clamshell sprays and boldly curved sections that cascade from the top section to a lower pool. The evening illumination is soft, much of it coming from pedestal lights. The fountain was built to replace a large pond destroyed by Union Terminal construction in 1933, and holds 3,200 gallons of water.

In 1971, after the creation of Amtrak, train service at Union Terminal was reduced to just two trains a day. Amtrak then abandoned Union Terminal in 1972. The Southern Railway purchased some of Union Terminal's land in late 1972 to use for its expanded freight operations. The Southern, however, wanted to demolish the entire station. On May 15, 1973, the Cincinnati City Council designated Union Terminal a historic landmark, preventing the Southern Railway from destroying the entire building. In 1974, the Southern was granted permission to demolish the 450-foot long passenger train concourse that projected out the back of the building so that modern piggyback railcars could use the site.

The concourse building contained 14 mosaic murals depicting important Cincinnati industries, and a mural which depicted maps of the United States and the world. The industrial murals were removed by Besl Transfer Company and installed at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The map mural, however, could not be moved and was destroyed when the terminal was demolished.

On November 4, 2014, Cincinnati and Hamilton County voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 8 -- a ballot initiative that will raise roughly $40 million to make major renovations and improvements to Union Terminal. The money will come from State of Ohio capital grants, state and federal historic tax credits, and private funds.

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