tv History of Union Station CSPAN July 8, 2017 3:49am-4:28am EDT
people and hurt people. it happens, but most people recognize you can't, but it's not illegal for the government to do it. >> for our schedule, go to cspan.org. >> american history tv continues with more american artie tacts. coming up next, a tour of union station in washington, d.c. and later, a look inside tudor place. the home of martha washington's granddaughter. >> each week, we take you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. locateded in washington, d.c. near the u.s. capital. it opened in 190 p. at the time, it was one of the largest train stations in the world. we toured the building with the corporation to learn about its
history. we also hear from historical act tect john boeing about the recent restoration. aye like to welcome you to washington union station. this is a magnificent building located here in washington, d.c., just a couple of blocks from the u.s. capitol building. my job is ceo and president of union station redevelopment corporation, a non-profit here in washington, d.c. who's responsibility is stewardship of this magnificent building. it was built in 1907. not only one of the largest buildings in the world, but the most magnificent train station that had been built to date. this station has understood ggo changes throughout the years. completed in 1912 and entered into a busy, busy time starting with world war i when the uso
took over then of course through the 1920s and through the depression, went through many, many changes from being an active station to a place where of course it was not so active. served over 200,000 people a day. in this magnificent hall to serve the men and women coming through the station each and every day. of course, then we went through the changes in the 1950s when rail travel was not as popular as it used to be. the station began to suffer and became visible.
there was a plan which was implemented to make this a national visitor's center and in the hall we're standing in, there were significant alterations that took place. not alterations for the better and they were changed in the 1980s. when congress and others decided that the station deserved to be b preserved, restored and operated once again in the glory that daniel bernham had intended for it in 1907. this station reopened here as well as a mode of transportation sector. it serves over 8 million a year. it went another cently. the earthquake caused cracking and other problems in ceiling of this magnificent hall.
the union station redevelopment corporations board of directored started to explore the magnificent feeling in this main hall and after three years of renovations, we probably opened the main hall last summer. it is in its true glory. the main hall looks as it looked in 1907 as intended by daniel bernham and we really welcome and enjoy having people come through the station now to really see station as it was swended when it was first filled at the turn of the 20th century. around 1900, washington, d.c. was celebrate iing the centenni and of course around the country, many of the cities were developing parklands, such as central park and new york. there was an interesting congress in doing something similar here in d.c. and senator james mcmillan was appointed chairman of the senate park commission and the purpose was to really look at the laffont
plans and to attempt to implement the laffont plan and really make washington, d.c. a premier nation's capitol and one of the greatest cities in the country. of course, part of that plan involved creation of a national mall with public buildings and monuments and museums along a grassy area ventures south from the capitol building. in order to accomplish the plan, the railroad stations which were located too close to the capitol building, needed to be removed. if you can imagine not only did you have two train stations, but you had a number of tracks and railroad crossings throughout the city in order to get to the stations. >> daniel bernham was an architect in chicago at time. he had been the director of a chicago world's fair.
there were a couple of things that he need today accomplish. first, he had to get the owners of the b and o and the pennsylvania railroad to agree to combine and work out of one station. no small feat. then of course, there were facilities that were already heerk townhouses, this was a thriving blue collar community so to speak. saloon, even a baseball field that was used here by the community. that's why we call this union station. there are many throughout the country. it means that the union of two or more railroads agreeing to operate out of a single building.
it was a great spot and one of the other reasons it worked so well is it was north of the cap a tall building so the train, the tracks and lines coming in could end here at union station before going underground. so it allowed the whole area to be cleaned up and really to rid this part of the city of much of the infrastructure like the tracks that had been here up to this point in time. so the plans of course began to build the station. just as we have prokts didn't, didn't go as smoothly as planned when construction began in 1903, they hoped to complete this building by 1905 in time for the inauguration. they didn't make that. the building didn't open until 1907 in the fall and it was
served by the b and o railroad in september, then a month later by the pennsylvania railroad. construction wasn't completed until 1912 with all the stat chair and columbus plaza outside, but the railroad station did begin operation in 1907 and was open fully for the 1909 inauguration. daniel made it clear that hemted something monumental. he wanted to make this magnificent and used the phrase monumental when talking about his plans. you can see he achieved his goal. when people walk into this building, they're really taken aback by the space the beauty
and i think his goal was truly achieved in terms of having a magnificent billing that would really make people who walk into the building both in 1907 and today really stop and gaze at the beauty of this structure. t trz. >> this looks very much today like it looked over 100 years ago. there were a few significant differences. there were a number of of large ben fs here in the main hall. remembering of course this was the waiting area, so if you can pick up a train in 1908 through 1950, this is where you would sit an wait for your train. there were newsstands, coffee shops n. one corner of the building, we had the men's lo d lounge. a barbershop. they could get their boots cleaned, clothes pressed. there was a smoking room for them and then in the opposite corner of the building, we had the lady's lounge. not so many amenities as were
provide nd the men's, but a place where they could sit and wait and be made comfortcomfort. you would enter via this main hall. if you needed to purchase a ticket, you could do that in the west hall. portion of the station. during world war two, is station was so busy they had to add ticket counters and fill up the main hall with the additional ticket counters, there were a number of patriotic banners and banners to sell the war bounds hanging below the wall. over 200,000 people could be here on a day. world war ii. some of the benches needed to be removed to handle the ticket counters, but it was still a primarily, the largest waiting room certainly in the city.
and cross road of the wormd it was once dubbed be by someone in the press. it's interesting to go thrust history. the announcer's voice was change today a female voice under the theory that a female voice would be sweeter and softer and would be more appropriate during wartime. also to illustrate how busy the station was, we have a quote from one of the quarters in that day that says he was bribed frequent frequently to take people to the head of the line. the lines were so long they extended through the building. now, we're going into the east hall. one of the nicest restaurants in
washington, d.c. it served as a restaurant into the 1950s. it was called the salve ron nor a while and was one of the fanciest in the district of columbia and anyone who was anyone dined here so i'm told. this is a beautiful room. you see it today as you saw it in 1907 through 1940. this dining room was significant because the trains were not integrated south of washington, d.c. until somewhere around the 1950s or '60s. so, people coming in from the trains from the north, the trains were integrated, but all trains stopped here at union station so that the changes could take place because the trains then were segregated heading into the south. so, again, very significant that you had a place here in the
station where everyone could come and eat together. if you couldn't afford to eat at the elegant restaurant here, there was a lunch counter room provided. we now call it the columbus club. but it was a very elegant room as well. you can watch the trains coming in and out from the lunch counter room n. the 1986 restoration, the room was turned into a two tiered room, we've had many events -- it's used as a very advanced space. the dining room has been turned into retail space as the result of a 1986 ration. we hoped it would be returned to
its original use one day. now, a look at the presidential suite. this room was very important. remembering this was built in 1905 and in 1901, p president mckinley had been assassinated. 20 years prior, president garfield had been assassinateded just down the street in one of the railroad stations, so it was important to have a place where the president could be secluded yet enjoy train travel, which was the primary way of getting in and out of washington, d.c. so, the presidential suite was established here on the east side of the building and the president's carriage could pull up in seclusion. the president his family or guests could get into the presidential suite, rest here, have dinner, entertain and then privately, be taken to the north side to get on their train. the presidents of the united states at various times used this for ceremonial gatherings. prince albert and queen
elizabeth were greeted here in the 1930s by the roosevelts, so during the war, the presidential suite had a different purpose. pingtures of uso servicemen and women, enjoying themselves, president truman decided it would be a better use of the space, so he did not use the space, but turn the facility over to the uso to be used through the 1950s. this was used continuously by presidents whom as i mentioned turned over uso and presidents
did use the station to greet dignitary, they no longer used the presidential swooes for that purpose. we're standing in the area now, the train concourse, you see the waiting room, the main hall where people waited for their train and they came through those doors to greet the train. you can see space is quite difsht now from what it was in 1907, however, you can still see a portion of the magnificent ceiling in here as well. we had the skylights. they did not work an were removed in 1920, but you can still see the lighting that we have here. so passengers came from the main waiting area and got on to the trains at this part of the station. today, of course, this is now a retail facility, but it is important to remember this iconic space was so large that you could have laid the washington monument end to end and still had room left over. there were two ends built on to
the building and they were removed in order to build a washington metro system in the 1970s. today, it serves as the primary retail part of the station. i guess run away trains were not tesh bly uncommon, but there was one here at union station. it was about five days. a train of about 100 people was coming in from the northeast. operating the train. lost control, the brakes failed so much as the best guess and the train came barrelling into the station. fortunately, the weight of the locomotive when it reached the floor of the station, the floor gave way. forcing the train to stop.
no one was killed. there were a if few dozen people taken to the hospital, but the magnificent was that 400 workers came in, worked around the clock and 36 hours later trk station was functional in time for president eisenhower's inauguration. this was a one story concourse. those were work areas previously. remember that the station was busy and did serve as the gateway so this concourse served. then in 1963, the civil right's march. the beatles arrived here for their first american tour and many diplomatic events also took place creating quite a bit of traffic through this portion of the station.
we're back in main hall again and by the 1950s, the main hall suffered quite a bit of use and was in bad condition. the floor here was taken out. there were actually the ceilings were covered with gold paint in some places. blue paint on some of the walls. congress and others began to debate the future of washington ewan kwon station. around the country, many other train stations were being torn down. it didn't happen here, but it took about 20 years of conversation for congress and others to decide what the next best use for this should be. finally, they decided to turn it into a national visitor's center, so in the '70s, the main hall, if you can believe it, was turned into a visitor's center and the floor was removed so an
8,000 square foot display area could be built here. it was referred to by one of the critic as the pit and if you can imagine, this floor was removed and there were literally a large hole where there were two movie theatres and a number of visual displays then. you would walk down into this area and see pictures of the capitol and learn b about you know whark you needed to know to visit washington, d.c. as one newspaper critic reported however it opened, one, he referred to it as the pit, a name it still has for that era, and second comment was made, why would anyone come here, go down to the pit and watch films about the u.s. capitol when they could walk a few feet outside and see the capitol building for it. needless to say, this was did not stay open long. they had the inauguration in
1981 then the entire building was closed and from then on, if you wanted to go to the amtrak station, you literally needed to walk around the billing or walk on wooden planks to get to your train. it was not something we could be proud of in terms of what happened to the station. in congress, a decision was made to decide what to do with the station. other train stations had been destroyed around the country. the preservation movement was strong. ipg people really began the to understand these buildings were magnificent and needed to be preserved and not torn down, so in 1981, congress passed legislation that this building should be turned into an intermobile transportation center once again an intermodal transportation center, but it should have a commercial interest that would allow it to continue for the
next century. so they developed a public/private partnership. and with the department of transportation, the union state development corporation was born. and the corporations responsibility was to be steward of this magnificent facility. so in the mid-1980s a major renovation took place. the pit was covered, and this floor which resembles the historic floor was put back. everything from the cloth to the ceilings were restored. and this building once again opened in 1998. and it was quite an event when it opened. there was a great celebration, many speeches were made. at at tham the rest of the building was also restored much as you see it today. so the west hall area that had once been ticket counters was opened as a retail place.
the columbus plodsa opened as an event space. the east plaza was fully restroered. and the train concourse of course became a significant retail space. although not everything that was done received great acclaim i think everyone understood it was a really very creative way to save the stagds. and nfgt it work. and here we are 30 years later and the station is still going very strong. so the building after its restoration in 1988 was very well-used for these past many years. and then a few years ago, of course, we had the ether quake in washington, d.c. a very unusual event. some of the other monuments and the cathedral were harmed by the earth quake. and we also discovered here we suffered some cracks in our ceiling as a result of that
earthquake. so once again we looked at what could best be done for preservation. and this magnificent ceiling it was determined it needed to be fully restored. for example, in 1985 while much of the ceiling that you see was restored, there was a great deal of work to be done above the coffers in order to preserve the ceiling for the next 100 years. to talk about the particulars, i'd like to introduce john dewy, historic architect. >> i've been working both with amtrak and the redevelopment corporation since 2003. and i was heavily involved in the restoration work that took place after the 2011 earth quake. we're here right now at the
mezzanine level directly over top and looking out to the hall space. and as you can see off to the side is the concourse area, which in the 1980s was converted into commercial space. he designed it in the bozar style, which means in english the school of the bozars. and pierce anderson had been classically trained and had been in paris and this was the style that was magnificent, the monumental style in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. the bozar style was natural for a train station. just like it was for big buildings, school buildings and
big public buildings, it provided a sense of structure. it provided a sense of organization from the grand monumental spaces such as the grand hall you see here to the subordinate stations such as the east hall where the restaurant was or the west hall, which is where the ticket area was or the place you would drop off your baggage. there were a number of contractors involved here because it was such a massive undertake. a firm was one the pennsylvania railroad had used on a number of lead projects. they provided the over all guidance, construction, man power and control over the construction. american bridge company also out of new york was responsible for all the steel framing in the building. despite the fact this is beautiful stone building with granite on the outside and
marble on the inside, in essence it's a steel structure. that's actually hung from a steel structure. american bridge provided all of that. they were one of the leading steel contractors, one of the leading steel bridge builders in the country at the time. they were located in pittsburgh. they were also located at their headquarters in new york. they brought in to provide all the steel work. the marble on the floors was provided by vermont marble company and brought down by train. and the beautiful plaster castings in the ceiling and all of the plaster on the surrounds on the windows was provided by the multi brothers from chicago. so there were a number of different firms throughout the
city and country that had the size, the power, and the skill that was needed to construct the restoration particular on the timetable. one of the high points of the station, as you look around on the interior of the station here, you see a series of statues. these are roman legionairs. there's 46 of them because that was the number of states in the union at the time the station was being constructed. they sort of guard the station, guard the exterior of it when you come in, guard the station as you're in it. and this is consistent with bozart's design. this is entirely consistent with the way public monument buildings like this at the turn of the century were construcked, to have these soldiers standing guard. and as you look carefully the
statue itself is actually cast plaster. and on top of that is a finish that's painted, and it has small flakes of crushed granite put in it, so that it looks like stone. so that when you're standing off at a distance down on the main hall looking up at the legionair, it looks like it's cut stone but in reality it's cast plaster with a finish on it that makes it look like granite, makes it look like cut stone. the hallmark of the interior of station is the coffered ceiling with its gold leaf coffers. after the earthquake in 201 we had an opportunity to look carefully not only at the cracks in the ceiling itself, but we went behind the ceiling to look at the structure and how the ceiling itself was attached to
the roof structure itself. and this gave us an opportunity to do restoration work that did not really happen in the 1980s restoration. it gave us an opportunity to put a steel frame behind the coffers to support them, to carry the weight so that in the event of another earthquake in the future, there wouldn't be any failure, there won't be cracking. but the best part is it enabled us to get up close to the coffers and look carefully to see what the history of the station really was as seen through the coffers themselves. in 1986 as part of the restoration project paint analysis was performed. and basically that's where samples of the plaster with the painted surfaces are taken off and put under a mike scope and looked at carefully to see the number of layers of paint. and what was discovered was that
originally all the eggs and darts surrounding the octagons and the cofferers were indeed participated the same way that you see today. in the 1980s restoration when the gold leaf was put onto the coffers, the gold that was used had a 30-year life-span. and after the earthquake in 2011 and we had the opportunity to get up close to it, what we were able to discover was its weight, and what we also saw was that the gold was beginning to flake. and although it still had its luster, its base had come loose. and it was approaching the end of its life. so the decision was made by the union station redevelopment corporation that we would reguild all of the coffers but we would reguild them with a heavier weight gold that would give us a 100 year span instead
of a 30 year span. we started on the west end of the main hall, and it took an average of about six months per section of the main hall to do the repair work on the plaster, to do the steel installation on the backside, to re-install all the heating and ventilation ductwork, and then ultimately to do the reguilding and painting work. once all that work was completed and we completed the inspections, we rolled the scaffold to the next bay and we started over. it took us almost two and a half years to do all of this because we needed to keep it operational so people could go through every morning, every afternoon so that businesses wouldn't lose money and so that the station could continue to operate as it always operates. one of the most interesting things about doing restoration
here at union station is that been working here all these years and every time i start -- every time we start something new, we learn something that we didn't know before. for example, all of the decorative pendant light fixtures that go through the building that go through the column aid, we discovered although they look similar, they're actually two different sizes. the glas globes on some of the fixtures are 16 inches in diameter on of the others are 14 inches in diameter. why did they do that? this is a question we couldn't figure until we sat down and put it into the context of bozart's design. the smaller light fixture were
in the secondary spaces and the larger light fixtures were in the larger main spaces. and if you look at the fixtures now and look at them carefully you'll see the subtle differentiates in the design that to the casual person looking at it, they would never notice. those are the exciting things that even after working here all these years we still keep coming up with new things that were put into burnham's design. >> i think we can be appreciative of the people who had the foresight to build the station, and really it's a privilege to be standing here over 100 years later in this magnificent hall and have it look very much as they
envisioned it. one of my pleasures is coming here particularly in the evening now that some of the ceilings have been restored and some of structures have been in the main hall have been removed, it's really magnificent particularly at sun set. it's really breathtaking. and coming in here in the evening and watch people literally just stop, you really understand the details of this building and what daniel barnham was trying to achieve. it's also great fun to come in here throughout it day, and oftentimes you have to watch where you're walking because people will be laying on the floor so they can get the best picture on the ceiling. and i've been walked in here to see school children with their crayons and papers drawing pictures of the ceiling. so it's wonderful to know we've preserved this grand space, and it's still being used today. it's one of the busiest train
stations in the country. it's actually one tof the busiest places in the world. we have almost 40 million people use this station. we are of course the metro station here in washington, d.c., the second biggest amtric station. we also serve other modes of transportation, local bus, inner city bus and recently the streetcar. so it really is a mecca not only for national transportation but for our region, the city of washington, d.c. so i think that daniel burnham and others that built this station over 100 years ago would be very proud of what we've been able to preserve here. you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website c-span.org/history. >> our guest this weekend is richard polack. he talks about efforts to repeal
and replace the fokt and what democrats are doing to keep the law in place. he's also talked about ways to address medicaid and hospital costs. watch the interview sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. sunday on q and a. >> i'm not asking anyone to compromise their values and believes. i'm just asking them to open their eyes to other peoples so that you can figure out your place in this infinite world. >> brook gladstone co-host and managing editor of wnyc's on the media. she discusses her book whereby the trouble with reality in which she looks at what constitutes reality today and how that criteria has changed over the years. >> i said at the beginning of the book our bilological wiring.
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