|Location||350 South Illinois Street|
Indianapolis, Indiana 46225
|Owned by||City of Indianapolis|
|Platforms||1 island platform (formerly more)|
|Tracks||2 (formerly more)|
|Opened||September 20, 1853|
|Rebuilt||1888, 1984, 2002|
|Passengers (FY2018)||28,804 11.98%|
Indianapolis Union Railroad Station
South Illinois Street entrance.
|Location||39 Jackson Place,|
|Area||1.3 acres (0.5 ha)|
|Built||1886-1888 (head house); 1915-1922 (train shed)|
|NRHP reference #||74000032|
|Added to NRHP||July 19, 1974|
The Indianapolis Union Station was the first union station in the world, opening on September 20, 1853, by the Indianapolis Union Railway within the Wholesale District of Indianapolis, Indiana, at 39 Jackson Place. A much larger Richardsonian Romanesque station was designed by Pittsburgh architect Thomas Rodd and constructed at the same location beginning in November 1886 and opening in September 1888. The head house (main waiting area and office) and clock tower of this second station still stand today.
Amtrak, the national rail passenger carrier, continues to serve Union Station from a waiting area beneath the train shed. It is served by the Cardinal (Chicago-New York City, via Cincinnati and Washington, DC), and was the eastern terminus of the Hoosier State until its discontinuation on June 30, 2019.
Thomas Rodd's design clearly shows the influence of architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). Historian James R. Hetheringon has concluded that Pittsburgher Rodd would have studied the nearly completed Allegheny County Courthouse designed by Richardson prior to his death in 1886. Considered by Richardson to be his best work, the Courthouse was highly influential, with the Union Station one of the oldest surviving examples.
The three-story Union Station is built of granite and brick, with a battered water table and massive brick arches characteristic of the Romanesque. It features an enormous rose window, slate roof, bartizans at section corners, and a soaring 185-foot (56 m) clock tower. The 1888 station included a large street-level iron train shed.
The first railroad to reach Indianapolis was the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, which began service there in 1847. Competing railroads began connecting Indianapolis to other locations, but each had its own station in various parts of the young city, creating problems for passengers and freight alike. This problem was common to many U.S. cities, but Indianapolis was the first to solve it with a union station, which all railroads were to use. In August 1849, the Union Railway Company was formed, and it began to lay tracks to connect the various railroads. Then in 1853, it built a large brick train shed at the point where all the lines met, becoming the first union station in the United States.
As Indianapolis and its railroad traffic grew, the limitations of the original structure became increasingly obvious. In 1886, Thomas Rodd was hired. At the time, Rodd was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, but did independent civil engineering and architectural projects on the side. The new station was completed in 1888, and during 1889 320,996 passenger train cars (across 45,204 trains) and 861,991 freight cars passed through the station. In 1893 approximately 25,000 passengers rode an average of 120 passenger trains daily.
By 1900, over 200 trains a day were being serviced, forcing the station to eventually build an expansive elevated platform (1915-1922) so as not to interfere with regular street traffic. It was once second only to Chicago's Union Station as a Midwest railroad hub.
In the 1940s, several railroads still called at the station: the Baltimore & Ohio, the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railroad (Monon Railroad), the Illinois Central, the New York Central, the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road), and the Pennsylvania Railroad. After World War II, intercity passenger rail travel in the United States began to decline. Throughout the 1960s and well into the Amtrak era, the number of train passengers declined to such a trickle that in cities in which rail stations did not serve commuter traffic, most were allowed to physically decline to a point where many were closed and some demolished. Indianapolis' Union Station almost suffered that fate. By the late 1970s, vagrants and vandals had taken over much of the facility and numerous police and fire runs were made to the cavernous building. Local business and political leaders began looking for some way to preserve Union Station and transform it into a vital part of the city again.
The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 14, 1982. Beginning in 1984, the facility was renovated and converted from its primary use as a railroad station to a festival marketplace. The Indianapolis architecture firm of Woollen, Molzan and Partners was responsible for the restoration the station's historic shed, which reopened in 1986. Union Station became a collection of restaurants, nightclubs, and specialty stores that included an NBC Store and a model train retailer. The eastern end of the former train platform area featured a large food court, plus several self-contained bars and nightclubs. Statues of individuals who might have been seen in the railroad station in prior years were installed throughout the facility. A Crowne Plaza Hotel took up much of the western portion of the train shed, with twenty six of its rooms being housed within old Pullman cars.
In 1997 the facility's marketplace era concluded with the departure of the last non-hotel and non-transportation tenant, a Hooters restaurant, which relocated to another nearby downtown building. The September 1995 opening of the Circle Centre Mall, just a block to the north, had drawn off the overwhelming majority of Union Station's retail customers. A planned pedestrian bridge between these two structures had been denied by officials for historic preservation reasons, and a direct underground connection was deemed to not be economically feasible. The city of Indianapolis was forced to take ownership of Union Station and began to try to find another reuse for much of the building. After some time, it began leasing out space for a wide variety of purposes, including office use and an indoor go-kart track.
In 2002, the 21st Century Charter School was started within the facility. The still-successful hotel expanded to take up a larger portion of the building. Additional companies and organizations began to inquire about and lease space in the station. In 2006, tenants included Bands of America, the Consulate of Mexico (which has since relocated elsewhere downtown), the Indiana Museum of African American History, the Japan-America Society of Indiana, and the Indiana Pacers academy (another charter school). Many of the building's internal directories still display Spanish as well as English, reflecting the demographic changes in Indianapolis, as well as being a left over from the days when the building housed the Mexican Consulate. The Grand Hall of Union Station is also rented out for banquets and other special events.
In January 2011, a new underground walkway between the newly expanded Indiana Convention Center (ICC) and nearby Lucas Oil Stadium opened. It also contains a connection to the Crowne Plaza hotel at the west end of Union Station. This climate-controlled pedestrian path replaces an above-ground link between the hotel and the now demolished RCA Dome, which stood where the new wing of the convention center is now situated.
Passenger train service has been very limited in the Amtrak era. When Amtrak began operations in 1971, it cut back service to a single train, the Spirit of St. Louis and its successor, the National Limited. When that train was discontinued in 1979, Indianapolis was without any rail service until 1980, when the Hoosier State began running daily to Chicago. Northbound trains would leave in the morning, while southbound trains would arrive in the evening. It was joined in 1986 by the New York-to-Chicago Cardinal. Until its discontinuation (due to lack of funding) in June 2019, the Hoosier State ran on the four days that the Cardinal did not operate, thereby providing daily service along the route. Passengers board from a waiting area in the southern portion of Union Station's old train shed, at street level along Illinois Street.
From 1999 to 2003, the station was served by the Kentucky Cardinal, an extension of the Hoosier State that ran to Louisville, operating as a section of the Cardinal on the days that the Cardinal ran. The southbound train split from the eastbound Cardinal at Union Station, while the northbound train joined the westbound Cardinal for the journey to Chicago. With the discontinuation of the Hoosier State, Indianapolis is served only one train for only the second time in its history.
The station is served by two Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach lines-one serving western and central Illinois (the Quad Cities, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, and Danville) and another that stops at Nashville, Louisville, and Cincinnati en route to Chicago.
The Amtrak station is co-located with the city's Greyhound bus depot, making this a multi-modal transportation hub, albeit a small one. As of January 2019 , there is no commuter or light rail service in Indianapolis. In FY 2013 Indianapolis averaged about 99 passengers daily, making it the busiest stop in Indiana served by Amtrak.
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The Spirit of St. Louis at Indianapolis on December 14, 1970
Media related to Union Station (Indianapolis) at Wikimedia Commons