The original Union Station was Providence's first, opening in 1847 to accommodate the needs of the newly thriving city. It was considered "a brilliant example of Romanesque architecture" in its time, and the longest building in America. As the city continued to grow, so too did the need for terminal space, ultimately resulting in the paving over of the remnants of the city's inland bay in 1890. The question of what to do with the now undersized station was spontaneously answered in February of 1896 when the station suffered a catastrophic fire.
A much larger Union Station was opened in 1898, clad in distinctive yellow brick, which the Providence Journal heralded as "a new era of history of this city". The station was designed by the firm of Stone, Carpenter, and Willson, which had also designed other Providence buildings. Though rail use was expected to grow, by the 1980s rail traffic had dropped 75 percent. City planners saw the opportunity to dismantle the "Chinese Wall" of train tracks that hemmed in Providence's central business district and moved MBTA and Amtrak service to a new, smaller station about a half mile north in 1986.
Just after the move, Union Station caught fire amidst $11 million in renovations, forcing a change of plans. Parts of the original station have now been renovated and the building contains offices and restaurants, including the Union Station Brewery.