If you’ve visited my blog before, you may know that I like exploring sustainable lifestyle alternatives and the City of Angels. Since moving here, I’ve also developed a fondness for the Spanish California Missions dotted around the State (I have 15 out of the 21 left to visit). Union Station combines these three loves of mine: it’s a sustainable alternative to driving, a cultural landmark, and Mission Revival influenced its design.
If you haven’t heard of or been to Union Station, the architectural style used is “Mission Moderne” (a blend of Art Deco and Spanish-colonial). It was built in 1939 on the eastern edge of Downtown and was one of the last grand stations constructed in the US.
Walking into the station is like stepping back in time. You can almost see Cary Grant, cigarette in hand, striding towards the garden patio to leave the station. The terra-cotta and marble floor glimmers as it winds around the building in a compass medallion shape. In the grand waiting room, you’ll find mahogany and leather seats and, if you look up, you’re rewarded with six large bronze chandeliers Jay Gatsby would approve of. All the station’s light fixtures were custom made and every room is adorned with a different hand stenciled pattern on the ceiling. There are even some cathedralesque windows the sun seeps through. My favorite feature is the live notification for departing trains. Just before a train’s about to leave, a conductor will pass through the grand waiting room and announce the train’s departure.
As an ex-Londoner, I used public transport a lot and favoured certain stations. St Pancras International holds a special place in my heart because I love the Victorian Gothic architecture and, from there, I can catch a “fast” train back to my hometown. What I admire most about these two stations is how they have maintained their elegance and become historical landmarks whilst still providing the function they were built for.
Similar to St Pancras with its various stores, eateries, and events, Union Station has become a cultural hub and is now also a destination for entertainment and art. The first time I visited the station was during LA Fashion Week. Every month there’s usually an art exhibition, film screening or musical performance. To check out what’s coming up next, click here.
Having read a lot about Union Station, here are some facts that interested me:
1. The first ticket ever sold was to a Mr. and Mrs. Sheet heading to Glendale and cost 28 cents.
2. Ground corncobs were used to make dampening acoustic tiles in the Grand Waiting Room.
3. The station brought together three competing railroads – Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe. Apparently, they had various disputes and, to decide whose ticket window would be closest to the doorway, they had to flip a coin.
4. The six bronze chandeliers in the Grand Waiting room each weigh a ton and a half.
5. The wooden ceilings the chandeliers hang from are fake and made from steel.
6. There are 286 Art Deco chairs in the main waiting room.
7. The restoration that took place in preparation for the stations 75th anniversary was the largest metal restoration project ever in LA.
8. There are small curved bronze wall mounts hanging either side of the windows in the waiting room and they were originally believed to be cigar cutters. They’re actually a stylish way to conceal hidden keyholes that control the Venetian blinds
9. A few films that feature Union Station as a filming location include:
· Blade Runner – The station was used as a police station of the future when Deckard is brought in to chase down replicants. Temporary office sets were created for the film in the ticket hall.
· The Dark Knight Rises – The foyer was used as a makeshift court for Bane by Dr. Crane.
· Catch Me If You Can – The station was portrayed as the Miami Mutual Bank when Frank flirts with the cashier who then explains how the system works.
Pictures of me were taken by Jonathan Ramsey
Most of the other images were taken from the Union Station LA website