Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Delaware Avenue & Columbus Circle, NE
Daniel Burnham, 1908
Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, this was the world's largest train station when it opened - the station and terminal zone originally covered approximately 200 acres and included 75 miles of tracks. For over half a century its coffered ceilings and granite walls provided an impressive “gateway” for travelers to the nation’s capital; among them were kings, queens, and presidents as well as millions of Americans and visitors from around the world.
With the growth of air travel, the station fell increasingly into disuse. A mid-1970’s attempt to revitalize it as a “National Visitor Center” failed. The building was closed in 1981. Later that year the Congress enacted the Union Station Redevelopment Act, and the 1985 - 1988 renovation project restored the building’s grandeur. Today, in addition to serving Amtrak, MARC and Metrorail travellers, the station houses over a hundred shops and restaurants and hosts exhibitions and international cultural events.
In front of the entrance to the station stands a 45-foot-tall marble
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #20 James A. Garfield, and the Pennsylvania Railroad series lists.
Location. 38° 53.743′ N, 77° 0.404′ W. Marker is in Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is at the intersection of Columbus Circle Northeast and Delaware Avenue Northeast, on the right when traveling east on Columbus Circle Northeast. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 50 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast, Washington DC 20002, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Christopher Columbus (within shouting distance of this marker); “The President’s Trees” (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Freedom Bell (about 300 feet away); Gateway to The Nation's Capital (about 700 feet away); All Aboard! (about 700 feet away); Famine-Genocide in Ukraine (approx. 0.2 miles away); Swampoodle (approx. 0.2 miles away); Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Capitol Hill.
Regarding Delaware Avenue & Columbus Circle, NE.
1. Books about Union Station include;
Highsmith, Carol M. and Landphair, Ted (1988) Union Station A Decorative History of Washington's Grand Terminal. (Chelsea Publishing, Washington)
Highsmith, Carol M. and Landphair, Ted (1998) Union Station A History of Washington's Grand Terminal (Union Station Venture, Washington)
2. Additional background
Washington's Union Station replaced two railroad terminals that had been built in the District of Columbia. One was Sixth Street Station, which was operated by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (a predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad). The other was New Jersey Avenue Station, which was operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
There were several reasons to build this grand structure. One was to enhance presidential security. James Garfield had been assassinated in one of the nearby stations. There is (or was) a room in Union Station whose sole function was to give Presidents a secure place to wait for trains. Another reason was the growing global power and influence of the United States. Congress decided that the nation's capital needed a railroad terminal that would serve as a "Palace To Transportation;" that is, a building worthy of an international city. A third reason was that Congress wanted to transform the National Mall from a mishmash of swamp, canals and railroad tracks
Washington's Union Station was for a time owned and operated by a corporation called The Washington Terminal Company. This corporation was jointly owned by both the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Amtrak eventually became the owner of the Washington Terminal Company and merged with it. The Washington Terminal Company had several unique and interesting locomotives. One was an electrically powered MP-54 "Owl Car." The MP-54 was used to shuttle employees between the station and nearby Ivy City locomotive maintenance facility. Another was the switching locomotive nicknamed the "Quarter Horse." This switcher was built by a company called FAUR and is headquartered in Bucharest, Romania. Both the "Owl Car" and the "Quarter Horse" were retired years ago.
Union Station has hosted several demonstrations of special modern railroad equipment. One of them was the LRC (Light Rapid Comfortable) train, which this intrepid editor rode between Union Station DC and Odenton MD. Another was the JetTrain turbine locomotive in October 2002. The prototype was built by Bombardier and
Also see . . .
1. Union Station: A Decorative History of Washington’s Grand Terminal. 1988 book by Carol Highsmith and Ted Landphair on Amazon.com. (Submitted on April 4, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.)
2. Union Station: A history of Washington’s grand terminal. 2nd Edition. 1998 book by Carol M. Highsmith on Amazon.com (Submitted on April 4, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.)
1. W. Graham Claytor, Jr.
Transcript of text on plaque shown on photo No. 9.
W. Graham Claytor, Jr., President and Chairman, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), July 3, 1982–December 6, 1993.
Following a long and distinguished career in public service and private industry, W. Graham Claytor, Jr. brought to Amtrak a life-log love of passenger trains and a dedication to the quality of rail passenger service. Among his most significant achievements at Amtrak was his leadership in the formation of a public-private partnership to restore and redevelop Washington Union Station.
In recognition of this service to intercity and commuter rail passengers, the community and its visitors; and in recognition of his nearly sixty years of public service, spanning eleven U.S. presidencies, and his many contributions to the American people through a remarkable career of business, military and government service, on January 26, 1994, by resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Railroad
— Submitted June 29, 2008.
2. A. Philip Randolph
Transcript of text on plaque affixed to the statue of A. Philip Randolph shown in Photo No. 12.
A. Philip Randolph, April 15, 1889–May 16, 1979.
Dedicated by the AFL-CIO to the memory of A. Philip Randolph, America’s foremost black labor and civil rights leader. The founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, he conceived and initiated the 1963 March on Washington for jobs and freedom.
“At the banquet table of nature there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.” —A Philip Randolph
— Submitted June 29, 2008.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 16, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 22, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. This page has been viewed 4,481 times since then and 65 times this year. Last updated on June 20, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on July 16, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4. submitted on January 22, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. 5. submitted on June 28, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 6. submitted on April 10, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 7, 8. submitted on January 22, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. 9, 10. submitted on September 28, 2008, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 11. submitted on June 28, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 12. submitted on April 6, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 13, 14. submitted on June 28, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.