The design and construction of the planned western passenger station in Chicago illustrates the difficulties of implementing plans that require the agreement of participating private companies and government agencies. The Plan of Chicago had intended to combine the passenger operations of the four railroads that used the existing Union Station with that of the Chicago & Northwestern Station, to its north. A new post office was also planned to the south of the station whose operations could be closely integrated with the railroads. The railroads could not agree on this, however, and when the new Union Station was opened in 1925, between Adams and Jackson, it was still only the terminal for the original four railroads companies. The post office was built, but farther to the south. Nevertheless the station, for which Burnham himself was the original architect, was praised for several innovations. Among these was the two-stub design, promoted by the participating railroads, which grouped platforms on north and south concourses, each serving lines heading in opposite directions. This streamlined transfers for luggage and passengers between lines terminating at the station from the north, west, south, and east, while increasing the capacity of the station. Typically of Burnham’s designs for rail facilities, the design moved most of the stations operations underground, covering over the railroads, platforms, and baggage operations so that they were hidden from street view. Above ground, as shown in this promotional photograph made when the station opened, the station consisted of two monumental buildings connected underground. The western building, the headhouse, remains, with its stunning and iconic Great Hall, complete with skylights, marble, and Beaux-Arts details. The second structure, housing the concourses, was situated east of Canal Street facing the South Branch of the Chicago River. It was replaced in 1969 by a larger office building, which still houses the main concourses and access to commuter rail service.
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Chicago Architectural Photographing Co., “Union Station.” 1925. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-31909