Construction on the structure that houses the Durham Museum commenced July 29, 1929 on the site of the previous Union Station. Rapidly increasing passenger rail traffic convinced Union Pacific of the need for a new station. Leaders of vision within the company decided that a truly elegant and contemporary structure would best portray the image of the corporation in the city of their headquarters.
Gilbert Stanley Underwood, one of the finest architects in the classic art-deco style, was given free rein in designing the structure and his style is reflected in every facet of the construction from the ceiling of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall to the door handles.
The station opened to great fanfare on January 15, 1931 and quickly became one of the busiest stations in the nation. In its heyday, 64 passenger trains and some 10,000 passengers utilized the facility every day. The station offered a wide range of amenities consistent with the needs of travelers on one of the nation's major rail networks.
Increased air travel and the completion of major interstate highway networks significantly reduced passenger traffic on the nation's commercial rail system. Amtrak, the Federal Governments response to consolidating and maintaining a semblance of passenger rail traffic, resulted in the final demise of private commercial passenger trains. The last passenger train departed Union Station in 1971 and the station closed its doors.
Union Station turns 80! Click here to read a recent story by KVNO about its history.
For more information on the history and renovation of The Durham Museum, select from the links below:
Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall