Union Station Turns 75, As Rail Transit Revives; With Marlyn Musicant

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No Further West

This Saturday May 3rd, Union Station celebrates its 75th birthday. And it does so as rail transit in LA undergoes a revival, with 75,000 people using the station daily, and a huge expansion being planned that may include a terminus for (the much-contested) high speed rail.

The building itself is now widely regarded as an architectural landmark, with its “Mission Moderne” Spanish-style exterior of white walls and red tiled roofs and more Deco-inspired patterned ceramics and interior fixtures (Architects: John Parkinson and his son Donald ParkinsonEdward Warren Hoak, chief designer, Herman Sachs, decorating consultant).

But the process of getting the now beloved station built was fraught with hostilities, delays and downright racism — from a 30-year effort by rail companies to stop the construction of a station that would unite them under one roof, to the uprooting of the original Chinatown to aesthetic debates about whether a station should be neoclassical or Mission Revival style.

Marlyn Musicant is editor of Los Angeles: Union Station and curator, with Greg Goldin, of an exhibit No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station opening this weekend at Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library, and featuring drawings and models from the Getty Research Institute’s archive. Musicant talks to DnA about the “battle to build Union Station.”

Image right: Exterior of Union Station, 2013; Photo: John Kiffe, courtesy of the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; © J. Paul Getty Trust 

More on Union Station

On May 3, the actual anniversary, Union Station will host National Train Day, starting with a rededication of the building at 10 a.m, and continuing though 4PM. Activities include railcar displays, live music a children’s theater performance and model train displays.

Cover of Tracks to the FutureUnion Station’s 75th birthday has inspired more than one book. Also just published is Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the Future.

Written by William Bradleypublished by Angel City Press, and jam-packed with vintage photography of trains, riders the station and Los Angeles, this book also relays the incredible drama and sometimes shameful history behind the creation of the station’s serene edifice and uplifting interior. See cover, complete with embossed copper-colored title, right.

Iconic VisionFor more on Union Station’s architect John Parkinson, see the book Iconic Vision by Stephen Gee,  interviewed here and on this Press Play.