Kansas City Union Station

Kansas City Union Station (station code: KCY) is a union station opened in 1914, serving Kansas City, Missouri, and the surrounding metropolitan area. It replaced a small Union Depot from 1878. Union Station served a peak annual passenger traffic of over 670,000 in 1945 at the end of World War II, quickly declining in the 1950s and was closed in 1985.

Kansas City Union Station
Location30 West Pershing Road
Kansas City, Missouri
Coordinates39.0848°N 94.5853°W / 39.0848; -94.5853
Owned byUnion Station Assistance Corporation
Line(s)Kansas City Terminal Railway
Platforms1 island platform
Disabled accessYes
Other information
Station codeKCY
OpenedOctober 30, 1914
RebuiltNovember 10, 1999 (as home to Science City et al);
2002 (Amtrak service resumed)
Previous namesUnion Depot (April 8, 1878October 31, 1914), West Bottoms
Passengers (2017)160,824[1] 4.62% (Amtrak)
Preceding station Amtrak Following station
Terminus Missouri River Runner Independence
toward St. Louis
Lawrence Southwest Chief La Plata
toward Chicago
Former services
Preceding station Amtrak Following station
Terminus National Limited Warrensburg
Preceding station Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Following station
Kansas City, Kansas Main Line Sheffield
toward Chicago
(Via Topeka)
Main Line
Major stations
toward Chicago
Ottawa Junction
(Via Ottawa Cut-off)
Main Line Terminus
Preceding station Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Following station
Terminus Kansas City St. Louis South Lee
toward St. Louis
Preceding station Burlington Route Following station
Terminus Kansas CitySt. Louis Harlem, MO
toward St. Louis
Kansas CitySt. Louis Shortline Mexico, MO
toward St. Louis
Preceding station Missouri Pacific Railroad Following station
Terminus Main Line Independence
toward St. Louis
Preceding station Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad Following station
Terminus Kansas City Roodhouse Independence
toward Roodhouse
Union Station
LocationPershing Rd. and Main St., Kansas City, Missouri
Area20.2 acres (8.2 ha)
ArchitectJarvis Hunt
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
NRHP reference #72000719[2]
Added to NRHPFebruary 1, 1972

In 1996, a public/private partnership began undertook Union Station's $250 million restoration, funded in part by a sales tax levied in both Kansas and Missouri counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area with Johnson County, Kansas paying more than any other county.[3] By 1999, the station reopened as a series of museums and other public attractions. In 2002, Union Station saw its return as a train station when Amtrak began providing public transportation services and has since become Missouri's second-busiest train station. As of 2010, the refurbished station boasts theaters, ongoing museum exhibits, and attractions such as the Science City at Union Station, the Irish Museum and Cultural Center, and the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity.


Union Depot

On April 8, 1878, Union Depot opened on a narrow triangle of land in Kansas City between Union Avenue and the railroad tracks of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad in present-day West Bottoms.[4] Nicknamed the "Jackson County Insane Asylum" by those who thought it was too large, it was the second union station in the country,[4] after the one in Indianapolis. The new depot was a hybrid of the Second Empire style and Gothic Revival. The lead architect was Asa Beebe Cross who "adorned the exterior of the building with intricate towers of varying heights, arched windows framed in stone and rows of dormers projecting from the steeply pitched mansard roof";[4] it had a clock tower above the main entrance that was 125 feet (38 m) in height. By the start of the 20th century, over 180 trains were passing daily through the station, serving a city whose population had tripled during its first-quarter century of operation.[4] In 1903, the lack of room for expansion and a major flood[5] led the city and the railroads to decide a new station was required.

New location

The decision to build a new station was spearheaded by the Kansas City Terminal Railway, a switching and terminal railroad that was a joint operation of the following railroad lines:

The new location was chosen to be a valley at 25th Street and Grand Avenue used by the Kansas City Belt Railway; it was south of the central business district, above and away from the floodplain.[4]

The architect chosen to design the Union Station building was Jarvis Hunt, a proponent of the City Beautiful movement.[6] The design was a main hall for ticketing, and a perpendicular hall extending out over the tracks for passenger waiting. The Beaux-Arts station opened on October 30, 1914, as the third-largest train station in the country.[7] The building encompassed 850,000 square feet (79,000 m2), the ceiling in the Grand Hall is 95 feet (29 m) high, there are three chandeliers weighing 3,500 pounds (1600 kg) each, and the Grand Hall clock has a six-foot (1.8-m) diameter face.[7] Due to its central location, Kansas City was a hub for both passenger and freight rail traffic. The scale of the building reflected this status.

Union Station made headlines on June 17, 1933, as four lawmen were gunned down by gang members attempting to free captured fugitive Frank Nash.[8] Nash was also killed in the gun battle. The “Kansas City Massacre” highlighted the lawlessness of Kansas City under the Pendergast Machine and resulted in the arming of all FBI agents.[8]

In 1945, annual passenger traffic peaked at 678,363. As train travel declined beginning in the 1950s, the city had less and less need for a large train station. By 1973, only 32,842 passengers passed through the facility, all passenger train service was now run by Amtrak, and the building was beginning to deteriorate. The city government of Kansas City wished to preserve and redevelop the building. To facilitate this, in 1974, they made a development deal with Trizec Corporation, a Canadian redevelopment firm.[9] Included in the deal was an agreement that Trizec would redevelop the station. Between 1979 and 1986, Trizec constructed two office buildings on surrounding property, but did not redevelop the station. In 1985, Amtrak moved all passenger operations to a smaller "Amshack" facility adjacent to the old station. By this time, the station was essentially closed. In 1988, the city filed suit against Trizec for the failure to develop the station; the case was settled in 1994.[9] For most of this time period, the building continued to decay.


The Beaux-Arts building consists of a Grand Hall with three large hanging chandeliers and ornate ceiling work, and the Grand Plaza, or North Waiting Room, now called the Sprint Festival Plaza. A large clock hanging from the central arch divides the two sections of the building.


In 1996, residents in five counties throughout the metropolitan area in both Kansas and Missouri approved the so-called "bistate tax", a 1/8 of a cent sales tax,[10] part of which helped to fund just under half of the $250 million restoration of Union Station.[9] Renovation began in 1997 and was completed in 1999. The remaining money was raised through private donations and federal funding. The renovations enabled Amtrak to move its operations back inside the main building in 2002.

Today, Union Station receives no public funding. Current operating costs are funded by general admission and theater ticketing, grants, corporate and private donations, commercial space leases and facility rental. Union Station is a nonprofit 501c3 organization. Union Station is now home to Science City (opened in 1999), a family-friendly interactive science center with more than 50 hands-on exhibits;[11] the H&R Block City Stage Theater, a live-action venue with productions for young and old alike; the Regnier Extreme Screen, the largest 3-D movie screen in the region at five and half stories tall; two restaurants, including Pierponts, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant, and the Harvey's at Union Station; shops, including Rocky Mountain Chocolate, The Science City Store, The Kansas City Store opening in 2011 and Parisi Coffee; the Gottlieb Planetarium, the largest planetarium in the area; and various temporary museum exhibits including the internationally acclaimed Dead Sea Scrolls in 2007, Bodies Revealed in 2008, Dialog in the Dark in 2009, Dinosaurs Unearthed in 2010 and Diana, A Celebration focusing upon Princess Diana in 2011. The Irish Museum and Cultural Center has been located in the station since March 17, 2007.[12]

The old Union Station Powerhouse building has been renovated by the Kansas City Ballet. It is the ballet's new home and is known as the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity since August 2011.[13]

In April 2015, the summer reality TV show American Ninja Warrior was filmed in Union Station.[14] The show returned to film again in Union Station 2 years later in 2017. [15]

Current Amtrak service

The station is served by six trains per day:

Of the twelve Missouri stations served by Amtrak, Kansas City was the second busiest in the 2015 fiscal year, boarding or disembarking an average 421 passengers daily.[16][17]

See also


  1. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2017, State of Missouri" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  2. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. https://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/stories/2002/08/26/daily6.html
  4. Ford, Susan Jezak (1999). "Union Avenue completed 1878, demolished 1915" (PDF). Missouri Valley Special Collections. Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  5. "Flood of 1903". Kansapedia. Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  6. "Jarvis Hunt, architect". University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  7. "12 grand Amtrak train stations and their histories". USA Today. May 26, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  8. Silvey, Jennifer (June 16, 2019). "86 years later, a dark day in Kansas City remembered". WDAF-TV. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  9. "Timeline". Kansas City Union Station. 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  10. "Bi-State Commission". Mid-America Regional Council. 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  11. "Science City takes important steps to woo more young visitors". The Kansas City Star. October 1, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  12. Roberts, Rob (September 2, 2016). "KC Irish Center buys a new home: historic Drexel Hall". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  13. "A brief history of the Bolender Center". 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  14. Engle, Tim (March 10, 2015). "NBC's 'American Ninja Warrior' will film at Union Station in April". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  15. "At Union Station Monday night: They came, they saw, they Ninja'd (and got soaked)". kansascity. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  16. "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2015, State of Missouri" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 20, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  17. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 20, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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