Union Station blends history with fun

Sunday, January 5, 2003

Dear readers,This week's trip is to Union Station in St. Louis.

A massive, Romanesque-style building, designed by architect Theodore Link in 1894, was once the largest and busiest railroad terminal in the world. In 1976, the Saint Louis Union Station was designated a National Historic Landmark. After an extensive $150 million restoration, the facility reopened in 1985 with a hotel, shops, restaurants and a lake ... all under one roof.

Today, the Grand Hall features a barrel-vaulted ceiling of unsurpassed gilt work, stained glass over its entrance, scale models of trains and statues. Visitors can discover the station's past and present with a self-guided walking tour through one of the nation's most significant rail stations and restoration projects. Additional activities are featured throughout the year, including historic and refurbished train displays, children's entertainment, sports events and exhibits.

Across from Union Station is Aloe Plaza and the magnificent Carl Milles Fountain, with an elaborate bronze sculptural piece representing the meeting of the rivers.

St. Louis was established as a trading post on the west banks of the Mississippi River in 1784 by a French fur trapper named Pierre LaClede. Business was good from the beginning. Soon the village became the center of commerce with furs as the main source of exchange for goods.

Today, elements of old St. Louis remain in Laclede's Landing, a nine-block industrial area that once housed companies producing coffee, leather goods, mattresses, tobacco, whiskey, candy and machinery. The historic area is located north of the Gateway Arch. At night, horse drawn carriages and live music add to the downtown atmosphere. Nearby, sightseeing excursions and gaming boats offer additional choices for entertainment.

How to get there

Go to St. Louis on Interstate 55 and keep going until you can see the Arch. Turn left on Market Street, which is right by the huge church beside the Arch. Union Station is located at 1820 Market Street, between 18th and 20th Streets. The historic building is north of I-64 and just four blocks west of the Savvis Center. The landmark is within walking distance of Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch.

Send your suggestions or ideas to Bill Coomer at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0699 or e-mail him at bcoomer@semissourian. com.

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