Cincinnati Union Terminal

Cincinnati Union Terminal was a significant development in the history of Cincinnati transportation. One of the last great train stations built, Union Terminal is a Cincinnati icon and one of the most widely regarded examples of the Art Deco style. Since its opening in 1933, Union Terminal has had a long and storied history, from welcoming soldiers home from World War II to becoming the home of three museums, an OMNIMAX® Theater and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. (Click here to read library articles about Union Terminal.)

After you pick your jaw up off the floor from admiring the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere, ask a member of guest services about the magical whispering fountains. Spend some time admiring the intricate details and stories of the Winold Reiss mosaics and visit Tower A, the original control tower of Union Terminal. Be sure to pick up a sweet treat in the Rookwood-tiled ice cream parlor before heading outside to enjoy it next to the fountain with a unique view of downtown Cincinnati.

After you read these Quick Facts, scroll down or click on the links in the menu at the left to learn more about Cincinnati Union Terminal’s amazing history.

Quick facts

  • Work on Union Terminal started in August 1929 and was completed on March 31, 1933.
  • Union Terminal cost $41 million, including the purchase of the ground and the readjustment of railroad facilities.
  • The Union Terminal complex, including the rail yards and supporting structures, takes up an area of 287 acres with 94 miles of track.
  • The Union Terminal complex originally was composed of 22 distinct buildings whose construction required 224,534 cubic yards of concrete, 100,500 square yards of paving, 8,250,000 bricks, and 45,421 net tons of steel.
  • The Cincinnati Union Terminal Company, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and the City of Cincinnati built the Western Hills Viaduct, which spans the rail yards, for a cost of $3.5 million.
  • The viaduct is 3,500 feet long of which 2,800 feet is double-deck construction.
  • The Rotunda's interior dome spans 180 feet, with a height of 106 feet.
  • The station was designed to accommodate 17,000 passengers and 216 trains a day.
  • Passenger train service left Union Terminal on October 28, 1972 and resumed on July 29, 1991 when Amtrak began operating at Union Terminal.
  • 15 local businesses were represented in the industrial mosaics in the train concourse: Piano Manufacturing (Baldwin Piano Co.); Radio Broadcasting (Crosley Corp.); Roof manufacture (Philip Carey Co.); Leather Production (American Oak Leather Co.); Airplane Manufacturing (Aeronca Company); Ink Making (Ault & Weiborg Corp.); Laundry-machinery manufacture (American Laundry Machine); Meat Packing (E. Kahn & Sons); Pharmeceutical Production (William S. Merrill Co.); Printing (U.S. Playing Card Co. and Champion Paper Co.); Steel Manufacturing (American Rolling Mills [Armco]); Rolled Steel Manufacturing (Andrews Steel Company and Newport Rolling Mill); Soap Making (Procter & Gamble Co.); Machine Tools Manufacturing (Cincinnati Milling Machine).

Exhibits and Special Events

Order out of Chaos

Prior to the construction of Union Terminal, the passenger rail situation in Cincinnati was less than desirable. Learn about the various efforts from 1880 to the 1920s to remedy the situation.

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Temple to Transportation

When it opened in 1933, Cincinnati Union Terminal was widely hailed as an artistic, architectural, and organizational marvel.  Learn about the fascinating history of Union Terminal during its years as a passenger rail station.

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When rail traffic went into decline, the Cincinnati Union Terminal Company, and later the City of Cincinnati, looked for ways to preserve and reuse the building.  Read about some of the proposed alternatives, from offices to museums.

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Gateway to the City

Opening in 1990, Cincinnati Museum Center has made its home in historic Union Terminal.  Working with regional officials, we work to preserve and protect this Cincinnati landmark.  Learn about how Museum Center came to be here and our efforts to save this magnificent structure for current and future generations.

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The Glass Storybook and the Great Menagerie

Two artists made significant contributions to one of the largest art commissions of the inter-war period.  Learn about Pierre Bourdelle and Winold Reiss and the work they created at Union Terminal.

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Experience Union Terminal

Eager to learn more?  Visit this page for the many opportunities to experience this Cincinnati icon, from Tower A to the free Rotunda Tours.

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