AKA: Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS), Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - infrastructure - transportation structures - railroad stations

Designers: McKee, Robert E., Inc., Building Contractors (firm); Parkinson and Parkinson, Architects (firm); Tomson, Tommy, Landscape Architect (firm); Robert Eugene McKee Sr. (building contractor); Donald Berthold Parkinson (architect); John Parkinson (architect); Thomas Tomson (landscape architect); Jan van der Linden (architect)

Dates: constructed 1937-1939

total floor area: 161,000 sq. ft.

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800 North Alameda Street
Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Often called the last of the great American railroad terminals, the Los Angeles Union Terminal opened on 05/03/1939, and was completed for approximately $11 million. Designed by the notable Los Angeles father-and-son architectural firm of Parkinson and Parkinson, in consultation with in-house architects for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads, the building was completed four years after the death of architect John Parkinson. It had an updated Spanish-Colonial character, with Streamline Moderne touches.

Building History

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal was originally the shared home of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in addition to the local electric railway lines, the Pacific Electric Railway and the Los Angeles Railway. Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal has been called many times, the last great American railroad terminal; use was heavy during World War II and into the late 1940s, but traffic here subsided as car travel took over as the dominant transportation mode in Southern California thereafter. Donald Parkinson designed the Union Station, one of his last major architectural works. (Although the firm of Parkinson and Parkinson is credited with the design of Union Station, John Parkinson died in 1935.) Parkinson worked with the company architects of the three railroads: H.L. Gilman, of the Santa Fe, J.H. Christie, of the Southern Pacific and R.J. Wirth, of the Union Pacific. Robert E. McKee signed a contract to serve as the building contractor on 04/23/1937.

In 2008, Union Station was owned by the Catellus Corporation. Catellus was originally known as Santa Fe Pacific Realty Corporation, formed in 1984, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corporation. This new entity managed non-railroad, real estate development projects located on the company's extensive properties. Its name was changed to the "Catellus Development Corporation" in 1990, and it bought Union Station in that year. Catellus planned on intensively using the station's property, building two office buildings and a residential development at that time. In 2005, ProLogis, a huge owner and manager of distribution facilities worldwide, purchased Catellus, and the Union Station.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) purchased Union Station in 04/2011 for $75 million. As noted on Metro's web site: "Beginning in the 1970s, growing use of Amtrak and expansion of local and regional rail revitalized the station as a major transportation hub. Under the Alameda District Specific Plan adopted in 1996, the 47-acre Union Station property has six million square feet of development rights. Metro acquired the station in 2011, managing the property that currently serves as a transportation hub for Metro, Metrolink, Amtrak and other transportation services as well an urban mixed-use development site." (See Metro.net, "History," accessed 05/31/2019.) In 2018, annual ridership through the station was 1,446,947 passengers. (See Great American Stations.com, "Los Angeles, CA, (LAX)," accessed 05/31/2019.)

Building Notes

An archival collection, "Architectural drawings for design and construction of the Union Station, Los Angeles, 1910-1991," is located at the Getty Research Library, Los Angeles, CA 90049; the collection consists of: "A collection of roughly 6,500 blueprints, architectural drawings, sketches, and photographic documentation of the construction site of the Union Station in downtown Los Angeles made between 1932 and 1939. Includes: conceptual drawings; landscape drawings; sketches of exterior and interior views; detail drawings of architectural elements, materials and furniture; plumbing and electrical working drawings; landscape drawings; and photographic documentation of the construction site (mostly negatives and some small black-and-white prints)." (See OCLC WorldCat, accessed 08/20/2009.)


After its purchase by Catellus Development Corporation, the Los Angeles Union Terminal underwent a restoration project between 1900 and 1992.

Los Angeles City Historical-Cultural Monument (Listed 1972): 101

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1980): ID n/a

PCAD id: 11641