Historic Structures

Opening Day New Article Union Station Railroad Station, Nashville Tennessee

Excerpt from special issue of the Nashville American, October 9, 1900, the day of opening ceremonies at Union Station:

"The splendid Union Station, just completed on the corner of Broad and Walnut streets, is Romanesque in design. It is built of Bowling Green gray stone [oolitic limestone], with ashlar face carved in and capped with the same material. It is four stories high, with a big, square tower of severe, though admirable lines, rising to a height of 220 feet, capped with a bronze Mercury as a finial. The roof is slate, with gables and domes, after the Romanesque fashion, set fittingly and without stint....

"As one enters the new station from the street [Broadway] the first attraction is the loggia, a massive lot of arches and entablature, covering some 40 x 50 feet, elaborately carved in stone, panelled in oak and paved with granite and tiling.

"Passing through the vestibules, by means of the three heavy stone archways, all beautifully carved in the Romanesque, one is first impressed with the color scheme of the general waiting room. This color scheme is not only an appropriate and pleasing selection, but has been carried out with taste and fidelity. No color-blind people touched this work. Not a false tint has been imparted. Tennessee marble wainscots the whole of the general waiting room. The lower section of the wall is dark colonial green, touched with darker green and gold, and capped with a cornice of gold. The next is two shades lighter green, with corners of yellow or mauve, the high lights being brought out in gold. As you go up, the green still lightens, till it goes out in yellow and green configurations in the dome panels that blend with the wonderful color and design of the art glass in the skylights above. The dome is 63 feet high.

"In the twenty spandrels of the ten imposing arches in the general waiting room there are as many angels of plenty, veritable Ladies Bountiful, who soar along, bearing to the two roads the principal products, by the transportation of which they derive their income. These figures are of exceeding grace, and the colors are so well blended in their varied tints that one realizes that every part of the decoration, as well as all the other work, has had expert direction.

"As one enters, the first spandrel of the row of arches on the right represents the milling interest, the symbol being two bags of flour, which that Lady Bountiful proffers as her offering. Its fellow bears a bushel of vegetables representing that line. Then follows that staple, corn, rich in its color of gold, and gold it becomes to a considerable amount, since the crop of Tennessee alone sometimes reaches 50,000,000 bushels.

"Next is the poultry business, a cornucopia of eggs, which means all the poultry. Then wheat; then lumber in shingle shape; then a cornucopia of fruit, representing that fast and well-paying frieght; then King Cotton, with her 10,000,000 bales annually.

"Then there is one arch with tobacco in one spandrel and wines and whisky is the fellow, which is too bad for the fellow, but the roads both get good revenue from the pesky stuff.

"Crossing over to the opposite side, samples of stone and brick represent the builders' interest. Then comes coal and oil. Two big sawlogs stand for the timber industry, which, too, is big, while a cornucopia pours out merchandise in the shape of drugs, bottled and boxed, and canned goods. The old almanac sign of the zodiac, Taurus, is used to represent all the live stock business. Then comes dry goods, boots and shoes, then hardware and grocers and all merchandise. Then coal; then ore and phosphate; then lumber dressed and undressed, last but not least by millions of feet.

"But it is the end panels of the grand room upon which the decorator and artist has really spread himself.

"The legend is a beautiful one and most artistically and appropriately carved out. As one enters from the vestibule in the north end, a pannelled [sic] piece is shown, a big metal panel picture in relief of Rameses and his queen being pulled by a gang of slaves. The vehicle is a wooden chariot, with log wheels and yet with some show of decoration. Palm trees are the background, while the sacred vase, with Egyptian ornamentation, accompanies. Behind, the palm bearers hold over the royal pair the big leaf for sunshade, while the vehicle moves along in slow but stately splendor. This represents the ancient mode of travel. Immediately over this panel is a clock 5 feet in diameter, carved and finished in Bower-Barff, while the high points are touched with gold. This clock has white hands and white Arabic numbers, which, with the black, is the strongest of contrasts. Amidst so much blending of color, this strong contrast is a relief, as if one needs relief from too much of beauty.

"To the right of the clock in the spandrel of the big arch, the Angel of Progress, a male figure, sails along with the winged wheel of progress, pushing everything to the front. On the left, the companion piece in the opposite sprandrel is a representation of Time a beautiful female figure holding a distaff, and the "Thread of Life" is being quietly spun therefrom. And so, from this ancient mode of travel, urged on by the angel of progress and made possible by endeavors through time, the opposite panel in the south end of the waiting room presents the "1900 Limited" a full vestibuled passenger train, with the Nashville & Chattanooga bully engine, No. 108, at the head, which annihilates space and enables Nashville to shake hands with Louisville.

"Nashville, on the right, is represented by a clear-cut profile girl of Grecian mien, and though rather undeveloped, yet is a promising figure. She is most becomingly draped and, thus bestowed in lavender and pink, energetically stretches out a glad hand to Louisville's worthy representative, who fills the left spandrel of the south arch. Miss Louisville is dressed all in white; the pink glow of blue-grass health and happiness and development adorns the cheeks, neck, and arms. The face is fair, the figure is superb; so is the lady, and as she herself has often done in fact, here counterpart does in fancy appears with open and warm hand to respond to Nashville's proffer of hers. There is force and fervor in the very twitch of the pretty finger tips. The whole is a pretty story well told in stone and to be told again and again to ages to come.

"On the right, as you pass from the grand entrance through the vestibule, is the ladies' waiting room, fifty feet square, full of flowers and beauty, fit for the fair, finished in pine and furnished in cherry. The art glass in this room is of new and beautiful design, called sunburst.

"The next is the ticket office, at which one office the patron of the rail can buy any ticket he may call for.

"At the southwest corner of the building is the colored waiting room, also fifty feet square, in soft green and light gray, with arabesque designs in the fresco and art glass in keeping - a very pleasing room, pronounced by many the richest decoration in the building.

"The southeast corner is the lunch room, all in blue gray, with massive quarter-oak counters and furniture of excellent design, with art glass to match.

"Then comes the hall and eastern entrance*, which lead out to the covered carriage concourse. Then along the east side, opposite the ticket office on the west are the several accomodation offices, the Western Union Telegraph Company, the telephone, the parcel room and the newstand. Front in the northeast corner is the dining-room, a rich, warm red room, with frieze touched with blue and white of attractive design and shading and transoms of sunburst art glass.

"The second and third floors furnish offices for the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, principally, while B. M. Starks, Superintendent of Nashville Terminals, is on the mezzanine floor west, and the Terminal Company's engineer's office is on the east.

"The ground floor is principally occupied by the heating, cooling, and lighting and power plant.

"The system of heating is by means of chambered boilers. The hot air in this confinement is conveyed to a 5-foot story, just under the main waiting room floor. This provides a hot air reservoir, 150 feet square, since it is the full size of the building. At any point hot air flues can tap the reservoir and convey the heat to the desired room. The big rotary fans will be used to drive the impure air from the building and bring in pure air from the top of the big stack in the rear.

"Minor divisions of this ground floor are assigned to the baggage, express, Pullman surplus and supplies."

"In the rear of the station building is the mid-way, a concrete-floored gallery, 25 x 300 feet, covered in with slate and glass light, airy and cool a delightful waiting station of itself. From this lead the steps down to the trains in the train shed below; also to the carriage concourse, and from this gallery, one reaches the baggage building on Walnut street. This baggage building will accomodate the baggage, express and mail. It is 45 x 175 feet and two stories high, two-thirds as large as the custom-house. The building is all stone and steel, with slate roof.

"The train shed is 250x500 feet, with a clear span of 200 feet. The truss has all members, except the rafters, of steel beams and rods, while the roof is slate, and the lanterns of glass.

"There are ten tracks that will hold full-length trains. The six north and south-bound tracks are capable of holding eleven passenger cars each. The platforms reach from Demenbreun street almost to the Broad street viaduct." (From the Nashville American, Tuesday, October 9, 1900, pages 1, 7.)