Union Station (Houston)

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Union Station
Union Station Houston Texas (HDR).jpg
The building in 2010
Union Station (Houston) is located in Texas
Union Station (Houston)
Location 501 Crawford St., Houston, Texas
Coordinates 29°45′25″N 95°21′23″W / 29.75694°N 95.35639°W / 29.75694; -95.35639Coordinates: 29°45′25″N 95°21′23″W / 29.75694°N 95.35639°W / 29.75694; -95.35639
Area 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built 1911 (1911)
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 77001448[1]
Added to NRHP November 10, 1977

Union Station is a building in Houston, Texas, in the United States. Dedicated on March 2, 1911, and formerly a hub of rail transportation, the building now serves as a cornerstone for Minute Maid Park.[2] It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has since been superseded by Houston's Amtrak station.

History[edit]

Construction and rail use[edit]

An illustration of Union Station, 1913

In 1909 the Houston Belt and Terminal Railway Company commissioned the design of a new union station for Houston from New York City-based architects Warren and Wetmore. The location called for the demolition of several structures of Houston prominence. Horace Baldwin Rice's residence and Adath Yeshurun Congregation's synagogue among other structures were removed.[3]

With an original estimated cost of $1 million USD, Union Station was constructed by the American Construction Company for an eventual total of five times that amount.[4] Exterior walls were constructed of granite, limestone, and terracotta, while the interior used an extensive amount of marble. It was completed and opened on March 1, 1911. At the time, Houston, with seventeen railways, was considered the main railroad hub of the Southern United States.[5] This is also evident by the Seal of Houston, which prominently features a locomotive. Two more floors were added the following year.[6]

The station served as the main inter-city passenger terminal for Houston for over seven decades thereafter. Passenger rail declined greatly after World War II, and the last regularly-scheduled train, the Lone Star, moved its service to Houston's current Amtrak station on July 31, 1974. With this move, the building effectively ceased to be a public facility and was taken over by the Houston Belt & Terminal and its parent railroads as office space and a dispatching center. One section of the building in the south end of the second floor was leased to the Houston Society of Model Engineers, which operated a large HO scale model railroad layout they named the "Texas, Crawford & Prairie RR", after the three streets which form the boundary of the original property of the station. On November 10, 1977, the building was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Ballpark-era[edit]

Main article: Minute Maid Park
Union Station Lobby is the main entrance to Minute Maid Park, and the former concourse of Houston's Union Station

Plans for a new Houston ballpark to replace the Astrodome began in 1995, and originally called for a site to be used at the Astrodomain. In August 1996, Houston's Union Station received a $2 million USD grant from the Texas Transportation Commission for renovation in a separate project.[7] Plans for the new ballpark's location drastically changed by September mostly in response to Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay's input and pledge to substantially contribute to funding if placed downtown.[8] It was at this time that the Union Station location was proposed by Lay.

Construction of Enron Field, now named Minute Maid Park, was completed thereafter with Union Station preserved and renovated as the ballpark's main lobby. It opened on April 7, 2000.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ Before baseball, Union Station a monument to classic architecture
  3. ^ Workers of the Writers Program of the Projects Administration in the State of Texas (1942). Houston: A History and Guide. The Anson Jones Press. p. 260. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Grand Station of Terminal Co.". Magnolia Park News. September 19, 1909. p. 1. 
  5. ^ Farbar, Jerome Hammond (1913). Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea. H. H. Tammen Company. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ Marsh, Tom (1999). "Houston Union Station: The Great Hall Revealed". Gulf Coast Chapter NRHS. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  7. ^ Feldstein, Dan (August 29, 1996). "Renovation plans to get Union Station back on tracks". Houston Chronicle. p. 36. 
  8. ^ Williams, John (September 13, 1996). "Astros near decision to stay - if downtown". Houston Chronicle. p. 1.