The busiest, and most important, transportation hub in Canada, Toronto’s Union Station is one that has a rich history behind it. While the original Union Station was built in 1872 on Front Street, it was handling over 130 trains a day by 1911, and a larger station was needed. This soon led to its demolition, as well as the creation of the Union Station that we know of today.
Union Station Architecture
The architectural design for Toronto’s Union Station was a result of a collaboration between a number of different architects. Designed to incorporate a Beaux-Arts style, it was, without a doubt, the grandest and most opulent station in Canada once it was built. From the Gustavino tiles that line the vault ceiling of the Great Hall, to the city names that are carved into the walls of the north and south side of the station, there was plenty of thought and care put into the design. The materials used were also meticulously chosen, from the Missouri Zumbro stone that makes up the interior walls to the Tennessee marble laid in a herringbone pattern on the floor, to the Indiana and Queenston limestone used for the exterior of the station, each picked to provide an awe-inspiring, but sturdy and long-lasting, effect.
Construction and Opening of the Station
Construction on Union Station began in 1913, but, due to World War I, was delayed for a number of years. In 1927, the station was officially opened by the Prince of Wales, even though construction had actually been completed eight years before. The crowd that gathered for the opening ceremony was a large one, and included several members of the British royal family, and, later that week, the very first passenger train was dispatched from the station.
Union Station Today
Today, Union Station retains the majority of its original features, and has, since its construction, been refurbished and renovated a few times, ensuring that all of its unique details can still be seen. Upon entering the station, visitors come face to face with the Great Hall and its impressive arched ceilings of carved stone, which subtly reflects the light, making the space seem even larger than it is. There are also several new additions to the station, such as the Skywalk, which is a long elevated walkway, as well as other connections that make the station even more easily accessible to the public.
In 2000, the historic significance behind Union Station was officially recognized, and it gained the status of being a protected landmark. Currently, there are still renovations being carried out in the station, aiming to double the capacity of the station in order to meet with increasing consumer demands. While it would seem as though this much-loved landmark is going to be experiencing a multitude of changes over the years, those directly involved with these developments recognize the building’s architectural importance, and understand how crucial it is to maintain the structure’s original integrity. While the modern amenities that now fill the station may make it almost unrecognizable from when it was first built, its rich sense of history and heritage can be felt immediately upon entering the building, and it is this very ambiance that makes Union Station such a special place.