Los Angeles Union Station
The culmination of over two decades of planning, Union Station embodies the excitement, promise, and wide-open spaces of Southern California in the early and mid-twentieth century.
The grand opening of the John and Donald Parkinson-designed train station was celebrated with a three-day extravaganza attended by nearly half a million people. The station's monumental architecture, a unique combination of Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco styles, assured that it would be one of the most identifiable landmarks in the city. Completed in 1939 as train travel began to be surpassed by other modes of transportation, Union Station was the last grand railroad station built in America.
The vast and extraordinary spaces now serve as station to the city's Metro Rail lines, and once again tens of thousands of people course through the building every day. In the mid-1990s, an intermodal transit center and twenty-eight-story office tower was added on the east side of Union Station. These additions draw on the 1939 station for inspiration, interpreting the vast spaces and southwestern colors in a new way, and incorporating the work of many different artists as part of the public spaces.
In 2011, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) purchased the historic station. Metro completed a campus-wide Historic Structures Report, a comprehensive rehabilitation plan which guided the work that followed.
Over the course of five years, beginning with work done in preparation for the station’s 75th anniversary in 2014, Metro undertook an exhaustive project to restore, rehabilitate, and revitalize the historic station, top-to-bottom.
Time took a toll on L.A.’s beloved landmark. Dark residue from years of nicotine and environmental pollutants covered the interior walls and ceilings. Black patina concealed the station’s metal doors, windows, and bronze chandeliers.
The team cleaned the walls, ceiling, and metal finishes. They restored the wood of the waiting room chairs and the ticket booths in the ticket concourse. In accordance with the station’s historic color palette, the they repainted the building’s exterior.
The team reused original tiles to repair the roof, using replacements only when necessary.
Metro made a series of upgrades to bring the historic station into the 21st century. They installed a new HVAC system, bringing air conditioning to the station for the first time. To better serve an increasing number of bicyclists, the team added a newly-constructed Bike Hub behind the north breezeway of the station, providing bike storage, repair, and retail.
Additionally, Metro committed to bringing the long-empty former Harvey House restaurant back to life. Closed since 1967, Metro found a willing tenant in the new Imperial Western Beer Company. Before the new restaurant opened, Metro cleaned and repaired the incredible interior space designed by Mary Colter, and made numerous tenant improvements, including installing an elevator to the restaurant’s mezzanine area.
This thorough and thoughtful long-term project earned a 2019 Conservancy Preservation Award. Congratulations to the project team!
Union Station's gardens and patios welcomed travelers to the sunny and mild climate of Los Angeles while the building’s blend of the Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival and Moderne styles reflect popular architectural design in Southern California at the time.
Union Station was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) #101 in 1972 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1992 Union Station underwent a major restoration effort.