Indianapolis Union Station

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Indianapolis, IN
Indy Union Station Rails2.jpg
Location350 South Illinois Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46225
Owned byCity of Indianapolis
Platforms1 island platform (formerly more)
Tracks2 (formerly more)
ConnectionsGreyhound Lines
Burlington Trailways
Disabled accessYes
Other information
Station codeIND
OpenedSeptember 20, 1853
Rebuilt1888, 1984, 2002
Passengers (2017)32,725[1]Increase 3.99%
Preceding station   BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak   Following station
toward Chicago
Hoosier StateTerminus
toward New York
Former services
Baltimore and Ohio
toward Springfield
Springfield – Hamilton
toward Hamilton
Illinois Central
toward Effingham
Effingham – IndianapolisTerminus
New York Central Railroad
toward Chicago
Chicago – Cincinnati
(Big Four Railroad)
toward Cincinnati
toward St. Louis
Big Four Route
Main Line
toward Cleveland
toward Peoria
TerminusIndianapolis – Springfield
New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad
Lake Erie & Western
Indianapolis Division
Pennsylvania Railroad
toward Chicago
Chicago – Louisville
toward Louisville
toward South Bend
South Bend – IndianapolisTerminus
toward Vincennes
Vincennes – Indianapolis
toward St. Louis
St. Louis – Columbus
toward Columbus
BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak
toward Chicago
Kentucky Cardinal
toward Louisville
toward Kansas City
National Limited
Indianapolis Union Railroad Station
Union station Indianapolis.jpg
South Illinois Street entrance.
Indianapolis Union Station is located in Indianapolis
Indianapolis Union Station
Indianapolis Union Station is located in Indianapolis
Indianapolis Union Station
Indianapolis Union Station is located in Indiana
Indianapolis Union Station
Indianapolis Union Station is located in the United States
Indianapolis Union Station
Location39 Jackson Place,
Coordinates39°45′47″N 86°9′34″W / 39.76306°N 86.15944°W / 39.76306; -86.15944Coordinates: 39°45′47″N 86°9′34″W / 39.76306°N 86.15944°W / 39.76306; -86.15944
Area1.3 acres (0.5 ha)
Built1886–1888 (head house); 1915–1922 (train shed)
ArchitectThomas Rodd
Architectural styleRomanesque
NRHP reference #74000032[2]
Added to NRHPJuly 19, 1974

The Indianapolis Union Station was the first union station in the world, opening on September 20, 1853, by the Indianapolis Union Railway within the Wholesale District of Indianapolis, Indiana, at 39 Jackson Place. A much larger Richardsonian Romanesque station was designed by Pittsburgh architect Thomas Rodd and constructed at the same location beginning in November 1886 and opening in September 1888. The head house (main waiting area and office) and clock tower of this second station still stand today.[3]

Amtrak, the national rail passenger carrier, continues to serve Union Station from a waiting area beneath the train shed. It is served by the Cardinal (Chicago-New York City, via Cincinnati and Washington, DC) and is the eastern terminus of the Hoosier State (from Chicago).


Thomas Rodd's design clearly shows the influence of architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). Historian James R. Hetheringon has concluded that Pittsburgher Rodd would have studied the nearly completed Allegheny County Courthouse designed by Richardson prior to his death in 1886. Considered by Richardson to be his best work, the Courthouse was highly influential, with the Union Station one of the oldest surviving examples.[3][4][5][6]

The three-story Union Station is built of granite and brick, with a battered water table and massive brick arches characteristic of the Romanesque. It features an enormous rose window, slate roof, bartizans at section corners, and a soaring 185-foot clock tower. The 1888 station included a large street-level iron train shed.[3][7][8]

Early history[edit]

The first railroad to reach Indianapolis was the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, which began service there in 1847. Competing railroads began connecting Indianapolis to other locations, but each had its own station in various parts of the young city, creating problems for passengers and freight alike. This problem was common to many U.S. cities, but Indianapolis was the first to solve it with a union station, which all railroads were to use. In August 1849, the Union Railway Company was formed, and it began to lay tracks to connect the various railroads. Then in 1853, it built a large brick train shed at the point where all the lines met, becoming the first union station in the United States.[3]

As Indianapolis and its railroad traffic grew, the limitations of the original structure became increasingly obvious. In 1886, Thomas Rodd was hired. At the time, Rodd was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, but did independent civil engineering and architectural projects on the side. The new station was completed in 1888,[7] and during 1889 320,996 passenger train cars (across 45,204 trains) and 861,991 freight cars passed through the station.[9] In 1893 approximately 25,000 passengers rode an average of 120 passenger trains daily.[3][7]

By 1900 over 200 trains a day were serviced, forcing the station to eventually build an expansive elevated platform (1915–1922[10]) so as not to interfere with regular street traffic. It was once second only to Chicago's Union Station as a Midwest railroad hub.[11]

History after World War II[edit]

In the 1940s, several railroads still called at the station: Baltimore & Ohio, Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railroad (Monon Railroad), Illinois Central, New York Central, New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road) and Pennsylvania Railroad. After World War II, intercity passenger rail travel in the United States began to decline.[7] Throughout the 1960s and well into the post-Amtrak era the number of train passengers declined to such a trickle that in cities where rail stations didn't serve commuter traffic, most were allowed to physically decline to a point where many were closed and some demolished. Indianapolis' Union Station almost suffered that fate. By the late 1970s, vagrants and vandals had taken over much of the facility and there were numerous police and fire runs made to the cavernous building. Local business and political leaders began looking for some way to preserve Union Station and transform it into a vital part of the city again.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 14, 1982.[2] Beginning in 1984 the facility was renovated and converted from its primary use as a railroad station to a festival marketplace. The Indianapolis architecture firm of Woollen, Molzan and Partners was responsible for the restoration the station's historic shed, which reopened in 1986.[12] Union Station became a collection of restaurants, nightclubs, and specialty stores that included an NBC Store and a model train retailer. The eastern end of the former train platform area featured a large food court, plus several self-contained bars and nightclubs. Statues of individuals who might have been seen in the railroad station in older years were installed throughout the facility. A Crowne Plaza Hotel took up much of the western portion of the train shed, with twenty six of its rooms being housed within old Pullman cars.

In 1997 the facility's marketplace-era concluded with the departure of the last non-hotel and non-transportation tenant, a Hooters restaurant, which relocated to another nearby downtown building. The September 1995 opening of the Circle Centre Mall, just a block to the north, had drawn off the overwhelming majority of Union Station's retail customers. A planned pedestrian bridge between these two structures was denied by officials for historic preservation reasons, and a direct underground connection was deemed to be not economically feasible. So the City of Indianapolis was forced to take ownership of Union Station and began to try to find another reuse for much of the building. After some time, they began leasing out space for a wide variety of purposes, including for office use and as an indoor go-kart track.

In 2002, 21st Century Charter School was started within the facility. The still-successful hotel expanded to take up a larger portion of the building. Additional companies and organizations began to inquire about and lease space in the station. In 2006 tenants included the following: Bands of America, Consulate of Mexico (which has since relocated elsewhere downtown), Indiana Museum of African American History, Japan-America Society of Indiana, and the Indiana Pacers academy (another charter school). Many of the building's internal directories still use Spanish as well as English, reflecting the demographic changes in Indianapolis, as well as being a left over from the days when the building housed the Mexican Consulate. The Grand Hall of Union Station is also rented out for banquets and other special events.

In January 2011, a new underground walkway between the newly expanded Indiana Convention Center (ICC) and nearby Lucas Oil Stadium opened. It also contains a connection to the Crowne Plaza hotel at the west end of Union Station. This climate-controlled pedestrian path replaces an old, above-ground link between the hotel and the now demolished RCA (née Hoosier) Dome, which itself was once part of the ICC and stood where the new wing of the convention center is now situated.

Passenger train service has been very limited in the Amtrak era. At Amtrak's inception in 1970, Union Station was served only by the Spirit of St. Louis and its successor, the National Limited. When that train was discontinued in 1979, Indianapolis was without any rail service until 1980, with the Hoosier State began running daily to Chicago. Northbound trains leave in the morning, while southbound trains arrive in the evening. It was joined in 1986 by the New York-to-Chicago Cardinal. The Hoosier State runs on the four days that the Cardinal does not operate, ensuring seven-day service between the two cities. Passengers board from a waiting area in the southern portion of Union Station's old train shed, at street level along Illinois Street.

From 1999 to 2003, the station was served by the Kentucky Cardinal, an extension of the Hoosier State that ran to Louisville, operating as a section of the Cardinal on the days that the Cardinal ran. The southbound train split from the eastbound Cardinal at Union Station, while the northbound train joined the westbound Cardinal for the journey to Chicago.

The Amtrak station is co-located with the city's Greyhound bus depot, making this a multi-modal transportation hub, albeit a small one. As of January 2019, there is no commuter or light rail service in Indianapolis, but it has long been envisioned that Union Station could serve as a possible hub if such services are finally established. In FY 2013 Indianapolis averaged about 99 passengers daily, making it the busiest stop in Indiana served by Amtrak.



  1. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2017, State of Indiana" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Indianapolis Union Railroad Station". Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  4. ^ Shank, Wesley (1970). "Union Station: Photographs and Written Historical and Descriptive Data". Historic American Buildings Survey. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service. p. 2.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Michael, Jesse (September 28, 2010). "The first 'union station' was a first (but the second was better)". Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis: Gannett Co.
  6. ^ Floyd, Margaret Henderson (1994). Architecture After Richardson: Regionalism before Modernism – Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow in Boston and Pittsburgh. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-226-25410-4.
  7. ^ a b c d "Union Station: Once-bustling railroad station is one of Indianapolis' most cherished landmarks". Indianapolis Star. April 25, 2011.
  8. ^ "Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)" (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-08-01. Note: This includes David R. Hermansen and Eric Gilbertsen (July 1974). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Indianapolis Union Railroad Station" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-01., Site map, and Accompanying photographs
  9. ^ Staff (1 February 1890). "Railway News". The Railroad Telegrapher. Peoria, Illinois. p. 20. Retrieved 2015-08-11 – via access
  10. ^ 1935 Interstate Commerce Commission Valuation Report for Indianapolis Union Railway Company
  11. ^ "Union Station". Emporis. 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
  12. ^ Trounstine, Philip J. (May 9, 1976). "Evans Woollen: Struggles of a 'Good Architect'". [Indianapolis] Star Magazine. Indianapolis, Indiana: 23. See also: Mary Ellen Gadski, "Woollen, Molzan and Partners" in David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 1453–54. ISBN 0-253-31222-1.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Powell, Eric (2016). "Indy's Union Station still dazzles". Classic Trains. 17 (1): 76–77.

External links[edit]

Media related to Union Station (Indianapolis) at Wikimedia Commons