I have a thing for trains and an even bigger thing for glamorous train stations from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, many of them succumbed to the explosion of car travel and the highway system in the 1950s. They were destroyed, oftentimes replaced with parking lots, bunker-style government buildings or even vacant lots in the middle of some of the prime real estate in the country. Boggles the mind, really.
I have personal knowledge of the crap that replaced several of these stations. In Atlanta, a city founded as a train depot and one the largest rail crossroads in the South, the sole train station remaining is a pokey two-track one-room cottage that used to be a minor commuter station. It’s an embarrassment, frankly, especially when you consider what they used to have.
Built in 1905, Terminal was the grand portal to the city. It had two Italianate towers and a huge train shed behind. When the station was razed in 1970, it was replaced by a government office building.
And that’s just one of the dearly departed stations in Atlanta. The other was built in 1930, demolished in 1972 and replaced with a parking lot.
The two stations in Chicago replaced with vacant lots will break your heart too.
Perhaps more than any other American city, Chicago’s destiny has been a result of its transportation links to the rest of the country. As such, it had something of an abundance of train stations. Even while it still has four commuter terminals inside the Loop, knocking down impressive stations like Grand Central did not yield much for the city. The site of this former station, prime real estate on the banks of the Illinois River, is still a vacant lot after nearly four decades.
THEN: Located on the banks of the Chicago River, the beautiful station with ornate marble floors, Corinthian columns, and a fireplace. It served travelers to DC and many other cities.
NOW: A vacant lot
I don’t even understand how it’s possible for such expensive property to remain vacant all this time. You’d think before they knocked down an architectural gem like that, they’d have some concrete plans or at least a vague notion of any benefit whatsoever that might accrue from the destruction.