Union Station 75th Anniversary

Historic Union Station is the most accessible destination in Los Angeles and one of the county's busiest and most beautiful transit hubs. Built in 1939, the station houses multiple transportation providers offering local, regional and long distance service. Travelers passing through Union Station will enjoy its authentic Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Moderne architecture and contemporary amenities. For passengers with longer layovers, historic sites and sightseeing opportunities await within and immediately outside its doors. Visit metro.net/library for more info.

1861: John D. Parkinson born

John B. Parkinson, architect for Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, is born in Scorton, Lancashire, England. He later moves to Winnipeg and Minneapolis, back to England, then on to Napa, California and Seattle before moving to Los Angeles in 1894 to open his architecture office on Spring Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

1904: The Braly Block

Parkinson designs the Braly Block (later known as the “Continental Building”), Los Angeles’ first skyscraper. It remains the tallest building in the city until City Hall is completed in 1928. Parkinson will go on to design many of Los Angeles’ finest buildings, including several at University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Bullocks Wilshire, an important early renovation of Pershing Square, and Union Station.

1916: The early push for a union station

The Railroad Commission of California acts to protect the movement of Pacific Electric streetcars across tracks of the Santa Fe and Union Pacific Railroads at the Los Angeles River. This causes other parties to file complaints regarding grade separation of rail lines and a push for a “Union Passenger Station.” The basic reason for a Union Passenger Station in any city is to save passengers from transferring between one depot and another when passing through. The major railroads argue that only 2% of passengers leaving or arriving Los Angeles need to transfer from one depot to another, thus a Southern Pacific – Pacific Electric joint station is far more important to Los Angeles than a Union Station for all three steam railroads. Here, a Los Angeles Railway “P” at 1st and Alameda Streets, circa 1918.

1925: The railroads' alternative

Los Angeles’ three major railroads do not want to open themselves to competition, should a union station be constructed. The Union Pacific System, Southern Pacific Company, & Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway offer an alternative plan. It proposes elevated tracks for local streetcars interfacing with railroad stations for easier transfers between the two.

1926: Los Angeles votes

Ballot measure gives Los Angeles residents the choice between a network of elevated railways and construction of Union Station to consolidate the city's three different railroad terminals. On April 30, 1926, voters approved the union station concept 61.1% to 38.7%. Its location, which was a separate ballot measure, was approved for the Plaza much more narrowly: 51.1% to 48.9%.

1930: Rise of the personal automobile

Car ownership in Los Angeles explodes during the 1920s, as the number of automobiles registered in Los Angeles County reaches more than 800,000 by 1930. This is five times the number in 1920. With much of Los Angeles’ streetcar network “at grade” on street level, the public transit system is slows down given the increased traffic, as one can see in this photo looking north on Broadway from 3rd Street in December, 1930.

1930: A new airport

Crowds gather at the dedication of “Mines Field,” Los Angeles’ municipal airport on June 7th, 1930. After the Westchester-area site was selected in 1928, construction of the new airport began preparing Los Angeles for the future of wide-scale passenger air travel…and the reduction in long-distance train travel in the coming years. Mines Field was named for William W. Mines, the real estate agent who arranged the deal. The first structure, Hangar No. 1, was erected in 1929 and is in the National Register of Historic Places, along with Union Station.

1931: Supreme Court decision

The three major railroads lose their appeals to the California State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. The California Railroad Commission compelled them to come up with a plan to construct a union station. By 1932, the nation was in the grips of the Great Depression, and the railroads again asked for a moratorium on the project due to the continued drop in rail passenger numbers. Here, a man stands on the sidewalk in Old Chinatown on Alameda Street in 1937.

1932: Olympics come to Los Angeles

Los Angeles hosts the Summer Olympic Games, with thousands of athletes and visitors arriving in the city’s various train stations from all over the world. The Los Angeles Coliseum was designed by Union Station architect John D. Parkinson in 1923, and retrofitted in 1930 for the Olympics. Held during the worldwide Great Depression, many nations and athletes were unable to pay for the trip to Los Angeles. Here, the Italian delegation departs the Southern Pacific Terminal for the Olympic Village.

1934: Construction begins

Groundbreaking exercises begin at Spring Street and Sunset Boulevard at nearby Fort Moore Hill as part of the new $8 million construction for the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. The photo shows the ceremony in progress with an arrow pointing to the speakers’ stand, along with the steam shovel which turned the first shovel-full of earth. Dirt amounting to 50,000 cubic yards will be moved to fill in at the new depot site.

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