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LAistory: Union Station

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There are few places in Los Angeles where you can feel the history, where if you squint hard enough, you could easily be in the 1930s, and yet that have a key place in Los Angeles' future. That place is Union Station, one of the most beautiful buildings in our city. Most of it is open to the public and it's central to anyone who wants to take a train, bus or subway (which makes it instrumental, as Los Angeles looks toward a future of public transportation). It has Traxx, a fine dining restaurant and it's bar, as well as a cafe. You can't take a bad picture there. It's truly a fantastic treasure.

Los Angeles' Union Station is widely considered to be the last of the great train stations built in this country. Designed by John B. and Donald D. Parkinson, the station was opened in 1939, with a dedication ceremony featuring both the mayor of Los Angeles and the governor of California, amidst three days of pageants, parades and other celebrations.

Built on what was once part of Chinatown, its grand combination architecture highlights the futuristic, transportation-inspired art deco contemporary (at the time) and Spanish revival, celebrating California's rich past. Fitting, as it's located right next to Olivera Street, where Los Angeles was founded.

Inside, it feels like a church. the original seating in the waiting area remains (though one presumes it's been reupholstered by now). It's decked out in the bright, beachy colors endemic to Southern California. The walls are lined with cork, preventing echoes so common in large structures.

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Now, the off limits areas are owned by a location company, not a surprising idea since it's been featured in films, tv and commercials since its dedication. The first train that ran out of the station was part of a promotion by Paramount Studios for their film, Union Pacific. Other notable films include, Blade Runner, The Way We Were and Guilty by Suspicion.

In its heyday, Union Station was a dynamic location most people passed through on their way to and from LA. Celebrities were often photographed as they arrived and departed for news clips. After LAX was built, and most people began to fly, the station fell into decline. Now invigorated by becoming part of the metro lines, so once again, it's a hub of transportation for most of Los Angeles.

Go to Union Station. Eat some yummy food. Feel yourself walking the knife's edge of Los Angeles' gorgeous past and its shining future.

Union Station, 800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Unless otherwise credited, photos by Jacy for LAist.