Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Beautiful Ant Hill

The Most Visited Place in Washington DC

What is the most visited site in Washington DC? The White House? Washington Monument? The Smithsonian Museums? The Capital mall?

Nope. 34,000,000 visitors a year pass through Washington's venerable Beaux-Arts Union Station.  

Designed by Chicago Architect Daniel Burnham and completed just 4 years before his death, this building still draws gasps of admiration from anyone seeing it for the first time. 

Burnham is the architect who designed many of America's first skyscraper's and led the design team for the most influential World's Fair in history; the neoclassical 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He designed New York's iconic Flatiron building and created the famous Chicago Plan to guide rebuilding the city after the great fire. He also created the master plans for Manilla and San Francisco. 

Thanks to rejections from both Harvard and Yale, he learned architecture the old fashioned way, by apprenticeship. He then went on to become one of the most influential architects America has ever produced.

Union Station was completed at a cost of $125,000,000 (which would convert to about $3 billion dollars today). Its site originally covered 200 acres of former swamp land. 

When completed the white marble edifice initiated the style that would soon be emulated in the Supreme Courts building and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.  

70 Pounds of Gold Leaf Adorn the Dome 

The reason it works so well today is because it is still doing what it was intended to do. Serve as a train station. It allows for the smooth transfer from DC's Metro subway system to either AMTRAK or MARC trains. From here passengers can efficiently travel downtown to downtown on an ACELA high speed train from DC to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. I particularly like the service to the Baltimore BWI airport.  

Designed in An Era When Architects 
Still Integrating Art in Architecture

Another key to the success of Union Station is its integration of superb shops and creative restaurants. This is the ultimate place to people watch and eat well.

The Lower Level Food Court

Always busy, Union Station is a superb gateway to the America's national treasure; Washington DC. This is not a place to "visit". It is a place to "use".

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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