Monday, December 31, 2012

Cincinnati Union Terminal - Cincinnati, Ohio


 
Cincinnati Union Terminal
Location: 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, OH
Constructed: 1933
Architect: Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner with Paul Philippe Cret and Roland Wank
Type: Transportation
Style: Art Deco
Original Use: Train Station
Current Use: Museum Center and Train Station

Cincinnati Union Terminal is one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States. Union Terminal was the cooperative project of seven rail lines that operated out of five stations in Cincinnati. The goal was to centralize freight and passenger train operations in the city. A new railroad terminal was in the planning for decades before construction actually began in August 1929. The cornerstone was laid on November 20, 1931. The terminal officially opened on March 31, 1933 nine months ahead of schedule.
Alfred Fellheimer (lead architect for design of New York City's Grand Central Terminal) and Steward Wagner of New York served as the principle architects for the project. Architects Paul Philippe Cret (Folger Shakespeare Library - Washington, DC) and Roland Wank (Norris Dam - Norris, TN) were brought in as design consultants. Originally conceived as a Neoclassical structure, Union Terminal was eventually designed as a modern building because of the high costs of executing a Neoclassical design during the onset of the Depression. Cret is credited with influencing the Art Deco style of the building.
In 1933, entry to the terminal rotunda was through the main doors or through side entrances from the three vehicular tunnels used by cars, taxicabs and interurban buses. Today visitors to Cincinnati Museum Center use the main doors. The tunnel entrances have been closed, and the space converted to exhibition areas. In 1933, the main concourse opened off the rotunda where the OMNIMAX® theater now stands. The concourse was 80 feet wide by 450 feet long and stood directly over the passenger train tracks. It had eight gates on each side leading down to the loading platforms.
The rotunda has a diameter of 180 feet and a height from the floor to the center of the finished interior of the dome of 106 feet. The ceiling and pilasters are finished in acoustic plaster. The ceiling is especially striking with its arc of silver and surrounding bands of silver and shades of yellow and orange. The marble used in the building is red and yellow Verona. The original seating used in the rotunda was red and tan leather-covered settees and chairs arranged in groups rather than the traditional rows of wooden benches. The digital clock on the present-day information kiosk was on the original rotunda magazine stand. The floor of the rotunda is covered with terrazzo in a pattern of light and dark bands to reflect the arched form of the room.
The large relief sculptures on the main facade were designed by Maxfield Keck. They are allegorical representations of transportation and industry.
Over two thousand workers helped in the construction of the terminal. The terminal originally included twenty-two buildings spread out over 287 acres. The total cost for the project was $41 million. Amenities included a new stand, toy shop, tea room, barbershop, and lounges for men and women.

Murals
German-born artist Winold Reiss was commissioned by Fellheimer and Wagner to design murals for Cincinnati Union Terminal in 1932. He was to design and create huge color mosaic murals for the rotunda and the train concourse and to assist in creating the Art Deco style for the entire building. The mosaics are "a combination of two artistic techniques. The human images are rendered in [glass mosaic] tiles, while the background areas are treated as large masses of frescoed concrete - concrete that has the color added while it is still wet. Background shapes such as shadows, are outlined, or silhouetted, in tile." ("The Vision of Cincinnati: The Worker Murals of Winold Reiss" by Daniel Hurley, Queen City Heritage vol. 51, no. 2/3, summer/fall 1993, p. 82.)
The mural to the left (south) side of the rotunda depicts the development of the nation. The background traces the history of transportation from the dog travois of the Native Americans to the oceangoing steamship. The middle ground shows the changing landscape from the plains to the eastern metropolis. The foreground represents the people who lived in and settled the country - from the Native American to steel workers in the modern city. The mural to the right (north) depicts the growth of Cincinnati. The background illustrates the development of Ohio River transportation from flatboat to airplane. The middle ground shows the infant Cincinnati, the spread of population to surrounding countryside, and, finally, the modern city. The foreground illustrates the people who lived here, including the soldiers at Fort Washington, settlers and industrial workers. Winold Reiss drew the portraits from life, frequently using Cincinnatians as his subjects. The men instrumental in the terminal project are shown in wall mosaics located on either side of the concourse area, near the entry to the OMNIMAX® Theater. On the left (south) side are (left to right): Russell Wilson, Mayor of Cincinnati in 1933; H. A. Worcester, the first president of the Union Terminal Company; and C. A. Dykstra, City Manager in 1933. On the right (north) side are (left to right): Murray Seasongood, Mayor of Cincinnati in 1929 when the project began; C. O. Sherrill, City Manager in 1929; H. M. Waite, Chief Engineer for the Union Terminal Company; and George Dent Crabbs, civic leader and founder of the Union Terminal Company. In addition, Reiss designed 14 mosaic panels for the train concourse depicting important Cincinnati industries of the time. These 14 panels were moved to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in the 1970s when the train concourse was removed. The industries depicted were:
  • Piano making (Baldwin Piano Co.)
  • Radio broadcasting (Crosley Broadcasting)
  • Roof manufacture (Philip Carey Co.)
  • Tanning (American Oak Leather Co.)
  • Airplane and parts manufacture (Aeronica Company)
  • Ink making (Ault & Weiborg Corp.)
  • Laundry-machinery manufacture (American Laundry Machine)
  • Meat packing (Kahn Meat Packing)
  • Drug and chemical processing (William S. Merrill Co.)
  • Printing and publishing (U.S. Playing Card Co. and Champion Paper Company)
  • Foundry products operations (Cincinnati Milling Machine)
  • Sheet steel making (American Rolling Mills and Newport Rolling Mill)
  • Soap making (The Procter & Gamble Co.)
  • Machine tools manufacture (Cincinnati Milling Machine).

The noted muralist Pierre Bourdelle was also commissioned to create artwork for the art deco railroad terminal. In the Cincinnati Dining Room, Bourdelle created a stylized map of the city which was wallpapered to the ceiling. Bourdelle also designed panels for the semi-circular women's lounge area adjacent to the dining rooms. Using his favorite motif of jungle animals, Bourdelle created carved and lacquered linoleum panels that serve as a background to the deep brown leather benches in the lounge.

After a brief stint as a shopping mall in the 1980's, Cincinnati Union Terminal is now home to an OMNIMAX Theater, Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Cincinnati Historical Library.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.


East Facade



East Facade


East Facade

East Facade Arch Detail


 
Clock Detail - East Facade
 
 
East Facade Detail


 
East Facade Relief Sculpture - "Transportation"





East Facade Relief Sculpture Detail - "Transportation"

East Facade Relief Sculpture Detail - "Transportation"


East Facade Relief Sculpture - "Industry"
East Facade Relief Sculpture Detail - "Industry"

East Facade Relief Sculpture Detail - "Industry"

East Facade Detail


East Facade Detail


East Facade North Wing Detail


East Facade North Wing Detail


East Fountain with Cincinnati skyline in distance




Cornerstone


Interior - Main Hall Window


Interior Main Hall Ceiling Detail


Interior Main Hall Ceiling Detail



Interior Main Hall Mosaic


Interior Main Hall Mosaic

Exterior Lights

Sources and Links:

http://www.cincymuseum.org/unionterminal

http://library.cincymuseum.org/journals/buildings/unionterminal.htm

http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natregsearchresult.do?fullresult=true&recordid=56

http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/72001018.pdf

http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/72001018.pdf

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