Kansas City’s Union Station was built in 1914 to replace the prior rail station that had been destroyed in a flood. At the time of its construction, the station was the second largest terminal in the nation. (Only New York’s grand central Station was larger.) During both World Wars, the station was major crossroad due to the city’s location in the center of the country, both for soldiers leaving to and returning from the European theater.
At the station’s peak year of 1945 over six hundred thousand people moved through the terminal. As air travel began to surpass rail in the 1950s and 60’s, the station began to decline in use until the mid 70’s when only three trains a week would stop in Kansas City.
The Station is massive and as rail passengers continued to decline, the lack of people in the waiting areas only became too obvious. In time, the station began to fall into disuse and eventually in the 1980’s Union Station closed completely. The building began to deteriorate and became an eyesore. The city passed a bi-state initiative with neighboring Kansas as well as private investment to fix and refurbish the station. A new science museum “Science City” also opened in the western half of the station and quickly became a major attraction. The station also contains an IMAX screen, exhibition space, and a live theater. A walkway was also built connecting the station with the Hall’s Crown Center, Legoland, Sealife Aquarium and several midtown hotels. We will explore all these places in future posts.
The turn around for the station and the entire midtown area has been very impressive. There is the Liberty Memorial, The National World War I Museum, Crown Center, Legoland an aquarium and Union Station all within easy walking distance. Not only this but restaurants, shops and free light rail to downtown.
The station is a focal point of civic pride and often has a beautiful light show. The colors change from Blue for the Royals baseball team to red for Chiefs football. The station is even colored green for Saint Patrick’s Day and the Kansas City Irish Fest held in September.
For over a century Union Station has been the beating heart of a great city. I hope someday you’ll come for a visit. You can see first hand what makes Union Station and Kansas city just so special.