PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio History Connection on September 8, 2020. Richland Source has entered into a collaboration agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share content on our websites.
CINCINNATI – Union Terminal was designed in the exciting days of the 1920s to bring together 13 different railway lines with seven different systems.
The result is unforgettable. It combines the machine age interest in technology and efficiency with the romance of travel and Cincinnati’s long art tradition.
Lots of people worked on the design, planning and construction. The New York company Alfred Fellheimer and Steward Wagner acted as architects for the $ 41 million terminal. They used the concept of a funnel on the side to move passengers to and from trains quickly and efficiently.
The eye-catching Art Deco details developed after Union Terminal Co. commissioned Philadelphia-born architect Paul Cret from Philadelphia to provide aesthetic advice. As the leading architect of the time, he is said to have influenced the transition from neoclassical to art deco.
The modern style was less costly and deemed appropriate since trains and stations were products of the machine age and had no counterpart in ancient history. Drawings show that the design continued to evolve towards Art Deco even after construction began.
Now, a $ 228 million rehab and restoration has returned the glitz of the opening day of the Cincinnati Union Terminal.
More than 2,400 craftsmen worked more than 900,000 hours on the National Historic Landmark’s first full structural rehab. Hamilton County’s voters made most of the project possible. In 2014 they passed a five-year sales tax of a quarter of one percent with 62% approval. The tax should generate around $ 175.7 million for the Union Terminal work.
Elizabeth Pierce, President and CEO of the Cincinnati Museum Center, said of the strong voter support: “It’s the heritage of the building. Everyone had a moment here, a cherished memory. It’s a place that people grew up in and now bring their own families to share those memories. “
The project also benefited from a government capital grant of $ 5 million and private philanthropy of $ 7.5 million. The Ohio History Connection State Historic Preservation Office and Ohio Development Services Agency administered $ 40 million in tax credits for state and federal heritage conservation that also supported the work.
Mariangela Pfister, assistant state conservation officer and director of technical preservation services for the Ohio History Connection, says the tax credits are essential to the project.
“The federal tax credit – 20 percent of qualified rehab expenses – was particularly important here. It represented another $ 35 million that could be used for things like restoring the fountain and murals. It supported things that might not have been possible in the same way without them, ”says Pfister.
“This project was strong because the building is fantastic, because there was so much original material to work with, and because there were people who love it. The building itself is an exhibition! “
To learn more about historic landmarks across Ohio, visit www.ohiohistory.org/ood.
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