05 October, 2009

The Grand Hall of Saint Louis' Union Station-My World-August 2009

From its magnificent 65-foot, barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Grand Hall to its Victorian-engineered train shed totaling more than 11 acres, St. Louis Union Station remains one of our nation's true architectural "gems." Built at a cost of $6.5 million in the 1890s St. Louis Union Station was designed by German-born architect Theodore C. Link of St. Louis who won the prized project in a nationwide contest.

Union Station was split into three main sections; the Headhouse (where the Grand Hall was located featuring mosiacs, gold leaf details and scagliola surfaces); the Midway (which was the main concourse measuring at 610 feet long by 70 feet wide); and finally the Trainshed which featured 32 tracks on nearly 12 acres of ground for the dozens of trains calling there.

A building of mammoth proportions and elegant ornamental decoration, St. Louis Union Station was intended to accommodate thousands of travelers and workers daily. The monumental head house featured numerous amenities including a luxurious hotel, a saloon, a dining hall, lunch rooms, gender-oriented lounges, a ticket office, several offices for the Terminal Railroad Association, and the world's first barrel-vaulted train station concourse, or "Grand Hall."

A most impressive feature of the Grand Hall is the "Allegorical Window," a hand-made stained glass window with hand-cut Tiffany glass strategically positioned above the Station's main entryway. The window features three women representing the main U.S. train stations during the 1890s -- New York, St. Louis and San Francisco.

The architecture of St. Louis Union Station is an eclectic mix of Romanesque styles. The Station's interior and exterior details are a combination of both Richardsonian Romanesque tradition and French Romanesque or Norman style.

In fact, Link modeled the grandiose Station after Carcassone, a walled, medieval city in southern France. These designs are most evident when entering the Station's Headhouse and the impressive Grand Hall, with its sweeping archways, fresco and gold leaf detailing, scagliola surfaces, mosaics and art glass windows. One can imagine the incredible impression the room created in 1894 on opening day. Today, the Grand Hall continues to awe visitors as the Marriott Hotel's lobby and lounge area

I will share some a few more photographs from Union Station in my next post.
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