Glorious high ceilings, details, incredible molding, marble floors, chandeliers, an aura of an exciting time of scurrying crowds in an old train station…..this is Union Station in Kansas City. In the heart of the city, off Main Street, is the centerpiece (in my opinion) of Kansas City’s beauty. 850,000 square feet, 10 stories high, 900 rooms, 95 foot ceiling in the waiting room and 3500 pound chandeliers! (some of its historic details). Taking photos of this architectural masterpiece inside and outside was a wonderful way to spend time gawking at this magnificent landmark!From the moment you walk in, you will be staring at all of the architectural details of this impressive building. First, in the lobby, you’ll see people gathered at the restaurant which is raised on a platform overlooking the lobby. People in line for tickets to the museum and planetarium also outline the lobby. Then, there’s the grand hallway reaching back into the interior. You might never have to leave the lobby to enjoy the beauty of Union Station. It’s truly astounding to study the amount of detail that went into these historic buildings. Train passengers were walking through with their suitcases, obviously taking advantage of this form of Amtrak transportation, even today. I’ve been to Union Station several times to enjoy the Science City museum and the planetarium with my family. Now that my sons are older, (and we’ve explored the museum 4-5 times), we enjoy other aspects of the building.We walked through a gallery of miniature displays of Kansas City over the decades. That will keep anyone entertained and stimulated for awhile. The lego displays are vivd and detailed. There are even areas where kids can play and build in this gallery section.
We also walked down into the basement area to see the trains. My oldest son started to think about the time when train travel was popular. This opened up a discussion about what caused the transition from mass transportation and city-centers to personal cars and suburban living. Some of the latter is discussed in the fascinating video link below. The station was built in 1914 and the grand opening attracted the largest gathering in Kansas City at that time. When midcentury airplane travel replaced train travel, the station was affected and over time its care was diminished. The station experienced other uses to its facility. In 1983, Amtrak operated in a huge bubble (seen in video link below) to deflect the debris and crumble. Fortunately, in 1996, a restoration project returned this gem to its deserved grandeur by “proud Kansas City-ans” as they say.
We walked through the gift shop, toy store and bookstore to reminisce about the years we bought volcano building kits there and dino-dig activities. Fortunately, we still have little cousins to shop for in this gift shop…and also to take to Science City! We’re never too old for Science City!
Union Station at Christmastime is holiday headquarters!!! When you enter, you’re ensconced in Christmas decor of garlands, wreaths, trees , swags and tinsel.There’s a perfect vantage point across the street to capture Union Station with the skyline….just another example of how Kansas City is so well planned and well “laid out”. It makes you appreciate visionary details and history.
Whether you go to Union Station for Science City, dining at Harvey’s or just walking through historic ostentatiousness, you’ll be glad you put this on your list of Kansas City landmarks.
FASCINATING VIDEO on Union Station’s history, heyday, restoration and revival!!
© Gina Michalopulos Kingsley
photos by Gina.