Union Station (Louisville)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Union Station
Louisville Union Station.jpg
Front and western side at sunset
Union Station (Louisville) is located in Kentucky
Union Station (Louisville)
Union Station (Louisville) is located in the US
Union Station (Louisville)
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Coordinates 38°14′46″N 85°46′8″W / 38.24611°N 85.76889°W / 38.24611; -85.76889Coordinates: 38°14′46″N 85°46′8″W / 38.24611°N 85.76889°W / 38.24611; -85.76889
Built 1880
Architect Mowbray, F.W.
Architectural style Romanesque
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP August 11, 1975

The Union Station of Louisville, Kentucky is a historic railroad station that serves as offices for the Transit Authority of River City, as it has since mid-April 1980 after receiving a year-long restoration costing approximately $2 million. It was one of three union stations in Kentucky, the other two being in Paducah and Owensboro. It superseded previous, smaller, railroad depots located in Louisville, most notably one located at Tenth and Maple in 1868-1869, and another L&N station built in 1858. The station was formally opened on September 7, 1891 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. There was a claim made at the time that it was the largest railroad station in the Southern United States, covering forty acres (16 ha).[2]


Construction of the station began in 1880, but completion was delayed until 1889 due to rising costs totaling at $310,656.47. Local contractors constructed all but the clock tower. Architect F. W. Mowbray was specifically hired for the project, which was to reflect the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. Its exterior was made of limestone ashlar, mostly from Bowling Green, Kentucky, although that from Bedford, Indiana was used for its trim. The roof was made of a slate covering protecting iron and heavy wood. Architectural features include a clock tower, smaller towers, turrets, a facade of considerable size, and barreled vaulting.[3]

The interior was no less impressive. The atrium, dining, and ladies' retiring rooms on the first floor were quite spacious. A wrought iron balcony overlooked the atrium. Soft lighting of the facility came from rose-colored windows on both sides of the atrium. The walls were made of marble from Georgia, as well as oak and southern pine. Ceramic tiles covered the floor.[4]


Union Station provided the entrance to Louisville for many visitors, with its height being the 1920s, when it served 58 trains a day. As a Union Station, it served not only the L&N railroad, but also the Monon Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Louisville, Henderson, & St. Louis, the latter eventually merging with the L&N. Many of those traveling to the Kentucky Derby would use the Union Station as their first place of celebration, with twenty special trains coming to the facility, and Pullman cars allowing overnight accommodations, a trend that continued until the mid-1960s. Three separate United States presidents arrived in Louisville by Union Station. The lobby was once graced by a performance by Sarah Bernhardt.[5]

Aerial view of the Louisville passenger and freight terminals showing Union Station in the first half of the 20th century.

On July 17, 1905, a fire occurred in the facility. The structure was unusable until it reopened the following December. A temporary structure was used in its place during the restoration. The rose-colored windows were replaced due to the fire with an 84-paneled stained glass skylight that became a feature of the barrel-vaulting tower. The Ohio River flood of 1937 also saw the structure close for twelve days.[5]

Amtrak used the facility regularly from May 1971 until October 1976, when it began running the Floridian in conjunction with the Auto-Train from a suburban station near Louisville International Airport.[5] From December 4, 2001 to July 4, 2003, a track on the west side of the parking lot served Amtrak's Kentucky Cardinal.[6]:221

L&N would eventually sell Union Station to TARC, which spent two million dollars from 1979 to 1980 to restore it. Since then it has served as administration offices for TARC.[5]

In October 2010, TARC announced plans to use a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to restore all 278 windows at the 120-year-old Union Station, including 40 made of stained glass. Union Station will also get a new geothermal-energy system. Combined with the window restoration, TARC estimates its energy savings will be $58,000 per year.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Kleber, John E. Encyclopedia of Louisville. (University Press of Kentucky). pg.897
  3. ^ Kleber, pg.897, 898.
  4. ^ Kleber, pg.898.
  5. ^ a b c d Kleber, pg.898
  6. ^ Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. 
  7. ^ Every Union Station window will be restored

External links[edit]

Preceding station   Pennsylvania Railroad   Following station
toward Chicago
Chicago – Louisville Terminus