tv History of Union Station CSPAN April 9, 2017 6:00pm-6:37pm EDT
and, "the unholy trinity" the irs national taxpayer advocate will offer her concerns about the complexity of the tax code. be sure to watch "washington journal" on monday morning. join the discussion. >> each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. located in washington, d.c. near the capital, union station opened in 1907. at the time, it was one of the largest train stations in the world. we toured the building with the president of the union station development corporation to learn about its history and we hear from a architect about the original construction in recent restoration.
>> hello. i would like to welcome you to union station. this is a magnificent building here in washington, d.c., just a couple of walks from the u.s. capitol building. at the nonprofit here in washington dc who responsible loyalty is stewardship of this building. this building was built in 1907. it was not only one of the largest buildings in the world, but it was certainly the most magnificent train station that had been built to date. this station has undergone many changes throughout the year. in 1912 andeted service during world war i when the uso took over part of the building. it went through many, many changes from being an actual station to a place where it was not so active and people may
have been here sleeping on benches, using the building for shelter and finally, with world war ii, the station became the center of the world again with the servicemen coming back here and serving 200,000 people a day and significant alterations made in this magnificent hall to serve the men and women each and every day. then, we went through changes in the 1950's. more people were using the automobile and the railroads began to decline financially. the station began to suffer and it became visible throughout the 1950's and 1960's. inre was a plan implemented the 1970's to make this magnificent building a national visitor center. in the hall we are standing in, there were significant alterations that took place. not alterations for the better
and they were subsequently changed in the 1980's when congress and others decided this station deserved to be preserved and operated once again in the in 1907.ended back after the renovation in the 80's, the station opened as a vital commercial facility as well as an intermodal transportation center here on capitol hill. over, the station serves 38 million people a year, busier than any of our regional airports. it also underwent another major renovation recently after an earthquake that we had here in washington, d.c. that caused cracking in the ceiling of this magnificent hall as well as the adjacent concourse. the board of directors decided to fully restore the magnificent ceiling in this main hall and after three years of renovation, we probably opens the main hall
last summer. glory, as it looked in 1907, as intended. we enjoy having people come through the station now to see the station as it was intended when it was first told at the turn of the 20th century. washington d c was celebrating as the nation's capital. wereof the cities developing parklands such as central park in new york city and there was an interest in congress to do something here in washington ec. senator james mcmillan was appointed senator of the part commission and the purpose was to look at the land and and make washington dc a premier nations capital and one of the greatest cities in the country.
part of that plan involves the creation of a national mall with public buildings, monuments, and museums along a grassy area venturing south from the capital building. in order to accomplish the plan, the railroad stations which were located to close to the capital building needed to be removed. if you can imagine, natalie did you have to train stations but you had tracks and railroad crossings to get to the station. senator mcmillan selected daniel barden to lead the efforts to restore the mall. he was an architect in chicago, probably the premier architect at the time. he had been the director of the chicago world's fair, so was only appropriate he be invited to prepare what was called the mcmillan plan at the time. this site was selected for a new railroad station and there were
a couple of things needed to accomplish. first, he had to get the owners of the railroad to agree to combine and work out of one station. no small feat. then there were facilities and town houses and a thriving blue-collar community with the loons, a tavern, stores and a baseball field. fortunately, he was able to convince the owner of the railroads to conform -- to form a union station. there are many union stations throughout the country and it means the union of two or more railroads agreeing to operate out in a single building. this location a few blocks away from the u.s. capitol building is a great spot and one of the other reasons it worked so well was because it was north of the capital building. andof the train, the tracks
the lines coming in could and here before going underground. to ridwed the whole area this part of the city of much of the infrastructure like the tracks that had been here up to this point in time. the plans began to build the station and the lead architect responsible for the architecture of the building and it did not go quite as smoothly as planned. when construction began, they hoped to complete the building by 1905, in time for the inauguration. that.id not make the building did not open for service until the fall and it was served by the bn no railroad. much later by the pennsylvania railroad. building wason the not fully completed until 1912 with all the statuary and columbus plaza outside. the railroad station did begin
operation in 1907 and was open fully for the 1909 inauguration. daniel burnham made it clear that he wanted something monumental. washington, dake c a city like paris and wanted to make the station the most magnificent in the country and used the phrase "monumental" when talking about this plan. the ceilings are 96 the high and they are beautiful. although a floor, restoration, does replicate the floor that was here. when people walk into this building, they are taken aback by the space and the beauty by the gold leaf in the city and the goal was truly achieved in terms of having a magnificent building that would make people who walked into the building and gaze at the
beauty of this magnificent structure. this hall looks very much like it looked over 100 years ago. there were a few significant differences -- there were a large number of mahogany benches here in the main hall. -- if you came to pick up a train, this is where you would sit and wait for your train. there were news stands and coffee shops. we had the men's lounge and a barbershop. they could get their boots cleaned and there was a smoking room. of theopposite corner building, we have the ladies lounge. not so many amenities. you would enter the train station after this main hall.
you could do that in the west hall portion of the station. the ticket counters were to the south and the baggage counters were on the north side of the hallway. during world war ii, the station was so busy that they had to add ticket counters and fill up much of the main hall. there were a number of patriotic banners to sell war bonds hanging minis the legionnaires and 200,000 people could be here during world war ii. sometimes the station had to be closed. some of the benches had to be removed to handle the ticket the largestt it was waiting room in the city. it crossroads of the world was once dubbed by members of the press. it's interesting to go through the history of this building and the changes that were made.
the announcers voice which changed to a female voice under the theory a female voice would be sweeter and softer and more appropriate during wartime. to illustrate how busy the station was, we have a quote from one of the porters that attempted frequently to put people in a wheelchair to take them to the head of the line because the lines to the trains were so long that they extended quite a ways through the building. so now we are going to go into the east hall. opened, station first this was used as a dining area. it was one of the nicest restaurants in the washington, d.c. and served as a restaurant until the 1950's. fancieste of the restaurants in the district of columbia and anyone who was anyone dined here, so i'm told.
as you can see, this is a beautiful room. in 1940, it was turned into a canteen for the soldiers. this dining room was significant because the trains were not integrated south of washington dc until around 1950's or 60's. from the north, the trains were integrated but all trained stopped here at union station. the trains were segregated heading into the south. very significant that you had a place in the station where everyone could come and eat together. eatou could not afford to at the elegant restaurant that was here, there was a lunch counter room that was provided.
we call it the columbus club, but it was a very elegant room with a beautiful feeling and you could watch the trains coming in and out. restoration, it was turned into a two tiered room and we have the columbus club there now. we have had many events and famous weddings and other things. a very essential event space. they dining room has been turned into a retail space. hope that it will return to its original use someday. now, we are to look at the presidential suite. this room was very important. remembering that this building 1901,ilt in 1905 and in
president mckinley had been assassinated. prior to that, president garfield had been assassinated in one of the railroad stations. it was very important to have a place where the president could and travel by train which was the primary way of getting in and out of washington, d.c. the president carriage could , hisup and the president family or guests could get into the presidential suite and rest here. then privately be taken to the north side. the president of the united states at various times use this room for ceremonial gatherings. prince albert and queen elizabeth were greeted here in the 1930's by the roosevelts. during the war, the presidential suite had a very different purpose. room tocross use this entertain the soldiers and administer to their many need
during world war i and, and uso took overthe the facility and there are large pictures of servicemen and women enjoying themselves, dancing, playing records here in the presidential suite space. result of that, president truman decided after world war ii that it would be a better use of the space, said he did not use the presidential suite for himself that turned it over to the uso to be used through the 1950's for the servicemen to use. continuallyas used through president truman who turned over to the uso and although other presidents through president kennedy did use the station to greet dignitaries and for special events, they no longer use the presidential suite for that purpose. we are standing in the area that is the train concourse.
you see behind me the waiting room where people waited for their train and they came to the stores to greet the train. quite different from what it was in 1907 but you can still see the magnificent feeling that they had here as well. the skylights did not work for very long and they were removed in 1920. passengers came from the waiting area and got onto the train in this part of the station. is a retail facility but it is important to remember this way so far long that you could lay the washington monument and to end and have room left over. they were left to build the washington metro system and it still a large space. primaryt serves as a retail part of the station.
in 1953, we had a small disaster here where we had a runaway train. runaway trains were not terribly uncommon during those days. fortunately, there was only one five days before president eisenhower's inauguration. about 400rrying people was coming in from the northeast. the operator of the train lost control. the brakes failed and the train came barreling into the station. fortunately, the weight of the locomotive when it reached the floor of the station, the floor gave way, forcing the train to stop. no one was killed. a few dozen people were taken to the hospital the magnificent thing about that event is 400 workers came in, worked around-the-clock, and 36 hours later, the station was
functional in time for president eisenhower's inauguration. is a one story train concourse. those were work areas previously, but remember the station was busy and did serve as the gateway to the nations capital. this concourse served during the in 1910 andmovement in 1963 with the civil rights march. using the stations here, the beatles arrive here for their first american tour, and many diplomatic events took bit ofcreating quite a traffic through this portion of the station. we are back in the main hall and by the 1950's, the main hall had suffered quite a bit of use and was in fairly bad condition. out andr was taken
removed. the ceilings were covered with gold paint and there was blue paint put on some of the walls. congress and others began to debate the future of washington union station. many other stations were being shuttered and torn down. conversationars of for congress and others to decide what the next best use for this facility should be. finally, they decided to turn it into a business center. main hall was turned into a visitor center and the floor was her moved so that an eight thousand square foot display area could be built here. was referred to by one of the critics as the pit. thereoor was removed and was literally a large hole where
there were two movie theaters and visual displays than. as one newspaper critic reported, one, he referred to it as the pit, a name that still had in that year a and the comment was made why would anyone come here and come down to the pit and watch films about the u.s. capitol when they could just walk a few feet outside and actually see the capital building for themselves. needless to say, after the bicentennial, this facility did not stay open for very long. the entire building was closed and from then on, if you wanted to go to the amtrak station, he needed to walk around the building or walk on wooden planks through portions of this building to get to this train.
fortunately, an effort was made in congress to decide what to do with the station. other train stations had been destroyed around the country. preservation movement was strong people again to understand that these buildings are magnificent and needed to be preserved. in 1981, congress passed legislation that said this building should be turned into an intermodal transportation center and should have a that shouldnterest allow it to continue through the next century. with the leadership of secretary elizabeth dole from the department of transportation, the union station redevelopment corporation was born.
corporation's responsibility is to be steward of this magnificent facility. in the mid-1980's, a major renovation took place. the pit was covered in this floor was put act. cost to the ceilings were and the building opened in 1988. there was a great celebration. many speeches were made. the rest of the building was restored much as you see it today. the west hall area that had once , that east counters hall was fully restored and the train concourse became a significant retail space. it was a significant partnership for its time.
everything received great acclaim but everyone understood it was a creative way to save the station. the building after its restoration in 1988 was very well used for the past many years and then a few years ago, we had the earthquake. a very unusual event. some of the other monuments were harmed by the earthquakes. we also discovered we suffered some cracks in the ceiling as a result of that earthquake. once again, we looked at what could be done to preserve the station. it was determine the station needed to be fully restored, not only to repair the cracks but it provided an opportunity to do a
full restoration. in 1985, there was a great deal in order toe done preserve the ceiling for the next 100 years. to talk about some of the changes made and the particulars of that restoration, i would like to introduce the historic architect, john bowie. >> i've been working here both with amtrak and a union station redevelopment corporation since 2003. i was heavily involved in the restoration work that took place after the 2011 workplace. we are here on the mezzanine level, directly over top and looking out on the main hall space. sideu can see off to the is the concourse area, which was converted into commercial space. when union station was designed,
auxwas designed in the be art style. beend pierce anderson had classically trained in paris and this was the style that was the magnificent, monumental style of all the big public buildings in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. as an architectural style, it was a natural for a train station just like it was for courthouses and big school buildings and public buildings. it provided a sense of fromture, organization, the grand monumental spaces such as the main hall that we see here to the more subordinate spaces like the east hall, which hall ticket west
area was and the place where you would draw from your baggage. there were a number of contractors involved in the construction at union station. the lead firm out of new york is a firm the pennsylvania railroad had used on a number of projects, so they were a natural coming here. american bridge company out of new york was responsible for all the steel framing in the facting in spite of the that this is a beautiful stone building with granite on the outside. it's a steel structure with a steel roof and the vaulted ceiling with the octagonal coffers is hung from a steel structure.
american bridge provided all of that. they were one of the leading steel contractors. they were located in pittsburgh but there are headquarters was in new york. the marble was provided by the vermont marble company from proctor, vermont and was brought down from new england by train. the plasterwork that you see, the plasterwork castings in the ceiling and all of the plaster around the windows was provided by mcnulty brothers in chicago. firmswere a number of that had the size and the manpower needed to construct a station. it was such a short timetable to work on the station.
if you look around the interior of the station, these are roman legionnaires. there are 46 of them. that was the number of states in the union at the time. station, they guard the exterior as you come in. this is consistent with the design. consistent with the way monumental buildings like this were constructed, to have these soldiers standing guard. is castue itself that,r and on top of there is a finish that is painted and has small flakes of crushed granite. stone so when you
are standing at a distance, it looks like cut stone. the finish on it makes it look like granite. the hallmark around the interior of the station, the thing people noticed when they come into the station is the coffered ceiling with its octagonal goldleaf coffers. 2011, we earthquake in had an opportunity to not only look at the cracks in the ceiling itself, but we went behind the ceiling to look at the structure to look at how it was attached to the restructure itself. this gave us an opportunity to do restoration work that did not happen in the 1980's. it gave us an opportunity to put
a steel frame behind the coffers to support them in the event of another earthquake in the future, there would not be any failure or any cracking. but the best part is that it enabled us to get up close to to see what the history of the station was. as part of the restoration, paint analysis was performed. the is where samples of faster with the painted surface would come off and was put under a microscope and looked at carefully to see the number of layers of paint. what was discovered was that all of the eggs and darts surrounding the coffers were painted the same way you see today. restoration, when
the goldleaf was put onto the coffers, the gold that was used had a 30 year life span. we had the opportunity to get up close and what we were able to discover was its weight and what we also saw is the gold was beginning to flake. still had its luster,had come loose and was approaching the end of its life. we would re-guild all the coffers and re-guild them with a heavier weight gold that would give us a 100 year life span instead of 30 years. we started on the west and of the main hall and it took an average of about six months per section of the main hall to do the repair work, to do the steel
on the backside, to restore the ventilation duct work and the gilding and paintwork. once that was completed and we completed the inspections, we would roll the scaffold to the next day and we started over. it took us over two and half wers to do all this because needed to keep the station operational and keep the main hall fully functional so people could go through every morning and every afternoon. one of the most interesting things about doing restoration here at union station is working here all these years, and every new, westart something
learn something we did not know before. the decorative, pendant fixtures that go through discoveredde, we recently that although they look similar, they are two different sizes. some of theobes on fixtures are 16 inches in diameter and some of the others are 14 inches in diameter. did they do that? this is a question we could not figure until we sat down and put it into the context of the design. fixtures wereght in the secondary spaces. the larger fixtures were in the primary spaces, completely in line with the design from the early part of the 20th century. if you look at these pictures now, you see the subtle to thences in the design
casual person looking at it, they would never know. still keep coming up with new thats put into the design are just waiting to be discovered. >> i think we can be very appreciative to the people who had the foresight to build washington union station. theodore roosevelt was president at the time and really, it's a privilege to be standing here 100 years later in this magnificent hall and have it look very much as they envisioned it. one of my pleasures is coming here in the evening now that it has been fully restored and main obstructions in the hall have been removed. it is magnificent at sunset. when you come in here in the evenings, you can see the blue and gold hues and it is really
breathtaking. to come here and watch people literally just stop, you understand the details of this building and what daniel burnham was trying to achieve. people will be laying on the floor so they can get the best picture of the ceiling and i've walked in here to see schoolchildren, laying on the floor with their crayons, drawing pictures of the ceiling. to know we have preserved this grand space and it is still be -- still being used today. it's one of the busiest places in the world. we have almost 40 million people a year walk through this train station and we are the number one station here in the area and
we serve many other modes of transportation. it really is a mecca not only for national transportation, but for our region. daniel burnham and others who built the station over 100 years ago would be very proud of what we have been able to preserve your. you can watch this and other american artifacts program by which -- by visiting our website. >> this year, c-span is touring cities across the country exploring american history. next, a look at a recent visit to chico, california. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> the chinese were here at such a valuable time.