Dayton’s Union Station, described as a “handsome palace” when it opened, was dedicated July 21, 1900.
A seven-story clock tower crowned the new station, which was an upgrade from an earlier round-topped depot built in the mid-1850s. Dayton Daily News headlines described the opening as “A Happy Day” and a “Splendid Occasion.”
“No greater evidence of a metropolitan stride has been presented with the passing of the century than the formal opening of Dayton’s magnificent Union railway station today,” the newspaper reported.
The story went on to boast, “It is unquestionably the handsomest in interior construction in the United States.”
Crowds paid 10 cents each for admission to the new building. They marveled at the blue and white decorations, ate ice cream and confections and twirled across a platform reserved as a dance floor.
In the first 30 years, as many as 66 passenger trains served Dayton on a daily basis, according to the Dayton Railway Historical Society website. For decades the train station was a point of departure for significant events in the city.
Union Station was the scene of tearful farewells and joyous reunions during World War II. Child actress Shirley Temple was greeted at the station in 1944 and escorted downtown to attend the Midwest movie premiere of David O. Selznick’s, “Since You Went Away” at Loew’s Theater.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman’s re-election campaign rolled into the station for a speech at Memorial Hall.
Fewer people across the country rode the rails in the 1960s, which was the starting point for the downsizing of the station. Over the next two decades, Union Station was demolished bit by bit. The last passenger train left the station in 1979.
Approximate site of Union Station