Union Station turns 75, as rail transit revives

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Union Station was the culmination of a long battle.

Union Station was the culmination of a long battle.

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.

KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis spoke about Union Station’s hidden history and unlikely revival with Frances Anderton, host of KCRW’s Design and Architecture.