Old School Film Hack

Arcs of Pure Gold

Union StationWashington, DC (December 2015)Sony RX1R II + Zeiss Sonnar 2.0/35mm

Union Station
Washington, DC (December 2015)
Sony RX1R II + Zeiss Sonnar 2.0/35mm

Trains stations of the 19th and 20th centuries were — and still are — magnificent architectural wonders.  This is Union Station, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece located in Washington, DC, just a short walk from the US Capitol Building… and Union Station was just one of many historical structures that nearly didn’t make it through the early-1980’s.

Union Station train concourse waiting area Washington, DC (1910)Photo credit: Wikipedia

Union Station train concourse waiting area
Washington, DC (1910)
Photo credit: Wikipedia

I remember well when the ceiling partially collapsed from extensive roof leaks back in 1981; the site was then closed to the public (except for a tiny section enclosed entirely with unpainted plywood near the train platforms so passengers could board trains), and there was serious discussion of tearing it all down due to the severe austerity measures in the Federal Government at the time.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the station finally — after many years and millions of dollars of renovations — reopened to great fanfare in 1988.

The image at the top is just a tiny taste of what greets you when you walk in the front door.  Soaring spaces, with a ceiling arching some 96 feet above you; gorgeous natural lighting filters through the cavernous interior; liberal amounts of gold leaf cover the ceiling and walls; and extensive use of marble and white granite complete the picture.  The Main Hall was partially closed for a second time after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the region in the summer of 2011, and gorgeous interior was revealed again in the late spring of 2016.

There many other spectacular structures within the DC area to compete for your attention (the National Building Museum, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian buildings, National Airport, and the National Cathedral all come to mind), but Union Station is one that I always love going into and savoring with a cup of coffee and something to nibble upon.

Oh, and if you ever watched the 1976 Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor dramedy movie, The Silver Streak, it turns out that the dramatic ending was actually based upon a spectacular train wreck that happened here at Union Station in 1953.  Check it out:

16 thoughts on “Arcs of Pure Gold

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      I would agree; also castles and other edifices and monuments. Of course the most over-the-top personal residence I can think of is Hearst’s Castle in California, which is totally amazing.


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