One of the first great union terminals, this imperial station with its vast interior spaces was the cornerstone of the McMillan Commission’s efforts to revive Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan of the city. Following the 1901 McMillan Commission, its members realized that any further development of L’Enfant’s plan necessitated removing existing railroad facilities from the National Mall. In cooperation with the railroad companies, Congress approved a union terminal site on the northside of Massachusetts Avenue in 1903.
The architect of Union Station was the Chairman of the McMillan Commission, Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912). In order to make Union Station a truly monumental gateway to the capital, Burnham turned to the triumphal architecture of Rome for design inspiration, deriving the central pavilion from the Arch of Constantine and modeling the interior after the Baths of Diocletian.
The first train to arrive at Union Station, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Pittsburgh Express, made its way into the station on October 27, 1907. The building was completed the following year. With virtually no other means of long-distance transportation available, Union Station became the “grand gateway to the capital.”
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: March 24, 1969