At over 100 years old, Kansas City’s Union Station has been a major point of connection for locals and visitors alike, attracting tourists from all over the world.
Located near downtown Kansas City at 30 West Pershing Rd., Union Station is much more than just a transportation hub. It also offers educational exhibits, entertainment, restaurants, shopping, and a full-service post office.
Visitors can learn about the history of rail travel in the U.S. at KC Rail Experience, a permanent rail exhibit, and see traveling exhibits produced by the Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other international organizations. A planetarium offers interactive astronomy education and night sky viewing, and Science City offers interactive learning experiences. Visitors can also check out a theater district featuring giant-screen movies and live theater.
The station is operated by Union Station Kansas City Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to science education, celebration of community, and preservation of history, according to its website.
Created by architect Jarvis Hunt and built in 1914 as a train station, the 850,000 square foot structure originally accommodated hundreds of thousands of train passengers. In 1945, the year World War II ended, a record number of passengers — nearly 680,000 — went through the station. A significant number of these travelers were U.S. Armed Forces personnel passing through on their way home from the war. The building also included restaurants, a barber shop, and a cigar store.
After being closed in the 1980s, the station was empty for some time, and almost underwent demolition several times. Then, in 1996, a historic initiative was passed by Missouri and Kansas to fund renovations to the station, which were completed in 1999, according to Union Station Kansas City Inc.’s website.
The station saw significant revival with the onset of the 21st century. In 2002, Amtrak returned to the station. Soon after, the U.S. Postal Service set up a branch in the facility. Then, in 2006, railroad company Kansas City Southern built a pedestrian bridge to connect the station with the Freight House, which became the Crossroads Arts District. Two years later, a 20,000 square foot exhibit gallery was built on the lower level of the facility to host traveling exhibits.
For more information about Union Station, visit www.unionstation.org.