Union Station History
Hartford’s Union Station is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and has been many travelers’ first impression of this grand city for over one hundred and seventy years. In the year 1843, “Union Depot” was erected – standing on the site of today’s Union Station and overlooking both the State Capitol and the Park River. This river originally ran between West Hartford and the Connecticut River and its only present visible sign of existence from the station is the pond at Bushnell Park.
Construction on the present building was completed in 1889. The train tracks were moved to the second level so that they would no longer cross Asylum Street at grade. Previously, hundreds of horse drawn carriages had crossed the tracks daily, resulting in the need to lower the train gates with each crossing. The Brownstone walls of the building were quarried in nearby East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The massive Great Hall was built as a two-story room and was originally lined with wooden benches to accommodate rail travelers. Four stately staircases, with handrails made of brass and iron, flank the eastern wall. Light filters through the immense windows, and an intricately painted mural overhangs the doors through which passengers entered the Great Hall after disembarking the train when both tracks were functional.
Over the next century, Union Station’s history would unfold with both tragedy and transformation. In the year 1914, the building burned down in an historic fire, requiring a complete rebuilding of the structure. The newer version did not include the grand gables that had originally graced the building on the Union Place side. In 1965, E. Clayton Gengras purchased Union Station and partook in its first major renovation. The interior waiting room lost many of its trademark benches, the walls were scrubbed and painted, and the information booth stood vacant. Space was leased to office tenants and a private secondary school. In 1987, Union Station’s major restoration was completed through a public-private venture. A transportation center, which ticket offices for both bus and rail travel, was added to the original Brownstone structure. The mural in the photograph, designed by artist Cleve Grey, adorns the Spruce Street side of the building. The Brownstone portion was transformed into a mixed-use facility, leasing space to office and retail tenants, and at one time included a food court.
In 2014, as part of a downtown transit improvement project, a CTTRANSIT Transit Center was added to the Union Place side of the Station. In July 2018, CTrail started the Hartford Line commuter rail service, which has continued to grow in popularity since it began.
Presently, the station continues to evolve, serving as an anchor for the west end of downtown and as the center for all surface transportation in downtown Hartford. Union Station boasts premium office and retail space as well as rail, bus and taxi service. Amenities available include a newsstand and gift shop; Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway; vending machines and ATM service.
We invite you to come visit our landmark building – and become a part of history….
The property is owned and managed by the Greater Hartford Transit District