Train stations rank high on my list of cool buildings and spaces. I love the feeling of adventure and freedom I get upon walking into a train station. One of my bucket list items is to ride a train from Los Angeles to New York and get off at all the interesting stops in between. Trains are a wonderful way to slow travel and discover the countryside as you pass through. Though not every train station is an architectural treasure, Union Station in Los Angeles definitely is. Inside and out, it epitomizes a time when rail travel was the norm in the United States, and travel in general occurred at a more relaxed pace.
Union Station was built in 1939 and was the last of the “Grand” stations built.
The design is Spanish Mission Revival combined with Streamline Modern Art Deco. The exterior (white stucco with a red tile roof) and the gardens reflect the influence of Spain in California’s history.
Inside Union Station, the archways and terracotta tile floors add more Spanish elements to the mix. The floors are so highly polished you can see your reflection in them, adding to the vast feeling of the space, even though the Los Angeles station is not as large as some of the other Union Stations.
Streamline modern design elements throughout the waiting area, include huge seats in wood and leather, like club chairs, that beckon you to curl up with a book or your laptop. Certainly it was built in an era when design didn’t seem to sacrifice to economy, even if it was built during the Great Depression.
I wandered into a bar that looked like it was straight out of a film noir; wood veneers, all dark and cozy, with a few intimate tables scattered about.
Union Station is in the heart of historic downtown Los Angeles, and was placed on the national register of historic places in 1980.. It’s a really fun area for tourists, full of history and culture. If you go, plan to spend about half a day or more there, enjoying the sights and having lunch on Olvera Street or in Chinatown.
Do you like traveling by rail? Where is your favorite train station?
If you enjoy historic walks read my post on Historic Downtown Los Angeles.