Recently named one of the top 50 architecturally significant buildings in America by the American Institute of Architects, the Union Terminal (formerly known as Cincinnati Union Terminal) was a passenger railroad station built to provide a solution and to unite a chaotic split railroad system existing at that time. Seven former railroad companies that serve the city: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad; the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway; the Louisville and Nashville Railroad; the Norfolk and Western Railway; the Pennsylvania Railroad; and the Southern Railway merged to form the Union Terminal Company that led the construction of the terminal. The terminal is situated one mile northwest of the center of the city of Cincinnati (a major center of railroad traffic in the late 19th and early 20th Century) on a land which was formerly Lincoln Park. Construction of the terminal started in 1928 and was officially opened on March 31, 1933, however, due to the flooding of the Ohio River on March 19, 1933, the terminal was forced into an emergency operation. During its prime, the terminal accommodated 108 incoming and 108 outgoing trains per day. During the World War II, the terminal made its contribution by being a major transfer point serving some 34,000 United States? soldiers.
The Union Terminal is of Art Deco architectural style composed of a large semi-dome made of limestone and glass in the west hemisphere of the rotunda. Initially, there were about twenty murals decorating the terminal. The most popular of these are the two largest murals found at the rotunda that illustrate the history of Cincinnati. There were fourteen murals created to depict fourteen industries that thrive in the city. However, when the terminal was renovated, many of these murals were placed on display at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Bordering both sides of the terminal are bent wings while an illuminated fountain, cascade and pool are in at the center foreground. The sides of the main doors are adorned with sculptures symbolizing Commerce and Transportation.
The success of the Union Terminal was short-lived. Through the 1950s and 1960s, with the development of interstates and airlines led to the rapid decline of the railroad industry and the Union Terminal along with the train service in the city was terminated completely in 1972. Soon after, the City of Cincinnati bought the terminal and allowed it to be leased by a Columbus developer who converted the terminal into a shopping mall which drew an average 7900 visitors almost every day. Sadly, due to the recession of the early 1980s, the venture had to close down and made the terminal vacant for the next few years.
During the mid-1980s voters of Hamilton County approved a bond levy to save the terminal from being torn down and convert it to a museum and Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal came into existence. More than 3,000 Cincinnati individuals, corporations and foundations made donations for the terminal?s restoration. In November 1990, the terminal reopened as a railroad station and as a Museum Center comprising of six organizations: Cincinnati History Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater, Cincinnati Historical Society Library, Duke Energy Children's Museum and The Cincinnati Railroad Club, attracting millions of visitors each year.
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