A complex $245 million renovation of St. Paul’s Union Depot restores the Beaux Arts landmark as a world-class regional transportation hub. The project’s centerpiece is the dramatic reopening of the barrel-vaulted, skylit waiting room after more than 40 years of disuse.
By Linda Mack
“Station Master E.P. Bruers” reads the bronze letters on a weathered wood door in St. Paul’s Union Depot. There’s no stationmaster now, and there aren’t 140 trains arriving and departing daily as there were in 1923, when the Neoclassical depot opened. But unlike most monumental railroad stations across America, which have been either adapted for new uses or leveled, the Lowertown landmark has been revived for its original purpose— as a transportation hub.
Visitors flooded the restored waiting room during the complex’s grand reopening in December. The barrel-vaulted skylights had been blacked out since World War II.
Thanks to a long-term commitment by the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, the depot and its long-shuttered concourse and waiting room have opened to Metro Transit, Jefferson Lines, casino buses, and tourist buses. The multi-modal transit hub stands ready to serve as the first station on the Central Corridor light-rail line in 2014— and to host Amtrak trains when they make their historic return to downtown St. Paul by the end of 2013. And a bike terminal and shop will add another form of transportation.
July/August 2013 Architecture Minnesota 33