Union Station (Omaha)

The Union Station, at 801 South 10th Street in Omaha, Nebraska, United States, is "one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the Midwest. Designated an Omaha Landmark in 1978, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The Union Station is also a contributing property to the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District. It was America's first Art Deco railroad station, and the completion of the terminal "firmly established Omaha as an important railroad terminus in the Midwest.


Between 1866 and 1971, Omaha was served by a succession of different station buildings reflecting Omaha's growing importance as the nation's fourth-largest railroad center. The 801 South Tenth Street site hosted two different buildings before the currently existing station. The first station was a "cowshed" station that was dismantled in 1890. Financial concerns kept a new station from being constructed for the next eight years and a temporary depot was used on the site. The pressure was on to build a new station in conjunction with the development of the neighboring Burlington Station, and with the impending start of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition.

The second depot was designed by Chicago architect Charles Frost, and construction began in October, 1898. Completed on December 1, 1899 at a cost of $405,782, the building's façade rose 60 feet above the Tenth Street Viaduct the building faced. It was primarily built from pressed brick made in Omaha, as well as Bedford stone used in the architectural details. A canopy of glass and iron protected passengers from the elements as they entered the station, and three synchronized clocks were visible both day and night from different directions. The tracks had the modern innovation of interlocking switches on all tracks approaching or serving the station.

Current structure

We have tried to express the distinctive character of the railroad: strength, power, masculinity.|30px|30px|Omaha Union Station Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood

Designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood of Los Angeles, the current building features a steel frame structure that is clad with cream-colored glazed terra cotta. Groundbreaking occurred on July 29, 1929, and the building was completed on January 15, 1931. The 124,000-square-foot cost $3.5 million to build. Of the building's design, Underwood was said to have remarked, "We have tried to express the distinctive character of the railroad: strength, power, masculinity. At its dedication, Carl R. Gray, president of the Union Pacific, declared the station to be, "Dedicated by the railways of Omaha to serve, comfort and convenience of the people.

The construction of the station was preceded by the construction of the Burlington Train Station one block away. Within ten years that station was served by seven railroads. Upon its completion, the Union Station became renowned for its technological innovations, including electric luggage conveyor belts, escalators and extensive lighting throughout the building. Simultaneously, patrons and critics alike appreciated the traditional and lavish attributes of the building, including massive women's restrooms, beautiful marble columns and flooring throughout, and deep oak woodwork surrounding every window and door in the station. During its first year, 1.5 million passengers passed through.

By 1946, 64 steam locomotives were in operation bringing 10,000 passengers daily in and out of the Union Station. However, within a decade everything changed. In 1956 the Chicago and North Western Railroad stopped its line running through Omaha. 1960 saw the exit of Wabash Railroad. In 1965 the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Chicago Great Western Railway quit running, followed by the Rock Island Railroad in 1969. Passenger service ceased in 1971, and the Union Station was donated to the City of Omaha by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1973.

That year the station quickly became the home of the Durham Western Heritage Museum. The Union Pacific Museum and Archives were also located there. In 1997 the Union Station underwent a renovation that included a 22,000 square foot addition and new climate controls for the museum, and today the building is a contributing property to the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District, bordering the Old Market Historic District and Omaha's Little Italy.

See also


External links


  • (1973) Historical Architecture of Omaha by Henry W. Wong.
  • (2001) Union Pacific and Omaha Union Station by Carla Johnson.
  • (1999) Omaha railroad Stations by John Peterson.

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