Building 51 | Building 51 | two matching c. 1920’s neoclassical style chicago union station ornamental cast iron exterior brackets – d. h. burnham & company, architects
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two matching c. 1920’s neoclassical style chicago union station ornamental cast iron exterior brackets – d. h. burnham & company, architects



Chicago Buildings

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extravagant c. 1920’s original american oversized ornamental cast iron exterior building facade corbels or brackets salvaged from the historic downtown chicago union train station, designed by notable architect daniel h. burnham in 1925. the intact neoclassical style iron brackets feature curvaceous scrollwork accentuated with detailed acanthus leaves. the cast iron brackets contain a mostly uniform green paint finish. exact fabricator not known. possibly winslow brothers foundry. the current union station is the second by that name built in chicago, and possibly the third rail station to occupy the site. the need for a single, centralized station was an important political topic in 19th and 20th-century chicago, as various competing railroads had built a series of terminal stations. the numerous stations and associated railyards and tracks surrounded the city’s central business district, the loop, and threatened its expansion. the various stations also made travel difficult for through-travelers, many of whom had to make inconvenient, long, and unpleasant transfers from one station to another through the loop. on december 25, 1858 the pittsburgh, fort wayne and chicago railroad opened as far as van buren street in chicago. it built the first station at what would eventually become today’s union station on the west bank of the chicago river. on april 7, 1874 five railroads agreed to build and share a union station just north of the original pittsburgh, fort wayne, and chicago railroad station site at van buren street. the michigan central, which had previously been using the illinois central railroad’s illinois central depot, soon decided to back out of the agreement, and continued to use the illinois central depot. the chicago and north western railway, not part of the original agreement, considered switching to the new station from its wells street station but deferred instead. in 1911 it built the chicago and north western passenger terminal for its operations. the remaining four original companies used the station when it opened in 1881. the headhouse of the union depot, a narrow building, fronted onto canal street and stretched from madison street to adams street. tracks led into the station from the south, and platforms occupied a strip of land between the back of the headhouse and the bank of the chicago river. south of the station, adams, jackson, and van buren streets rose over the tracks and the river on bridges. growth in passenger traffic, as well as a civic push to consolidate numerous railroad terminals, led to a proposal for an enlarged union station on the same site. the second union station would be built by the chicago union station company. this was a new company formed by all the railroads that had used the first station, save for the chicago and alton, which became a tenant in the new station. the architect was daniel burnham of chicago, who died before its completion. the firm of graham, anderson, probst and white completed the work to burnham’s designs. work began on the massive project in 1913, and the station finally opened twelve years later on may 16, 1925. construction was delayed several times by world war i, labor shortages and strikes. it is one of about a dozen monumental beaux-arts railroad stations that were among the most complicated architectural programs of the era called the “american renaissance”, combining traditional architecture with engineering technology, circulation patterning and urban planning. union station was hailed as an outstanding achievement in railroad facility planning. the station’s ornate beaux-arts main waiting room, the “great hall”, is one of the great interior public spaces in the united states. it has vaulted skylight, statuary, and connecting lobbies, staircases, and balconies. enormous wooden benches were arranged in the room for travelers to wait for connections, and two specially-designed underground taxicab drives were built to protect travelers from the weather. the station featured a large, open concourse along the river, with massive steel arches holding up the roof, and several stairways leading passengers down to the platform. during world war ii, union station was at its busiest, handling as many as 300 trains and 100,000 passengers daily, many of them soldiers. after the war, however, traffic both at union station and on the american passenger rail system declined severely with the growth of highway construction and private ownership of automobiles. in 1969 the expansive beaux-arts concourse at union station was demolished to make way for a modern office tower. a new, modernized (but smaller) concourse was constructed beneath the tower. in 1991, this concourse was renovated, which included a renovation of the great hall, and the restoration of the skylight, which had been blacked-out during the war and not restored. restoration of union station continues. numerous spaces within the station have yet to be renovated, and many sit unused, especially within the headhouse. there are six matching brackets in total. measure 31 x 19 x 3 inches