Your NPR news source

Quite a trip: Fabulous hidden spaces of Union Station revealed

The Metropolitan Planning Council took a behind-the-scenes tour of Union Station and shared the photos.

SHARE Quite a trip: Fabulous hidden spaces of Union Station revealed

For a while now, the Metropolitan Planning Council has devoted its efforts to improving Union Station — and for good reason: The 85-year-old complex is the last of the city’s grand old rail stations and the third-busiest passenger station in the country.

And what a fine building it is, with its elegant limestone exterior and that romantic passenger hall. And what you can’t see is pretty good too, as it turns out. The MPC earlier this year toured the building and photographed what’s behind the train station’s “official access only” doors and locked-out upper floors. The organization shared pictures of the tour in a feature on its website this week. The images show the old station has some of downtown’s most remarkable hidden spaces.

For instance, there is the station’s former Women’s Lounge— closed off from the main hall for years— in the photo above. Look at the columns, the coffered ceiling and the murals. The space is so large, the fair-sized crowd barely makes a dent in it.

Here’s a vintage wash-up area in one of Union Station’s closed upper floors:


And the view from the roof:


Reuse of these spaces is critical to Union Station’s future. As downtown development spreads westward, the station is a hub rather than facility on the edge of the Loop, which opens a ton of possibilties for those now-hidden offices, lounges and rooms. Having those spaces activated with businesses, restaurants, etc., would be good for the building and for the West Loop.

Want to see more? MPC posted additional photos on its Flickr page.

The Latest
Liesl Olson started as director at The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum earlier this month. She joins WBEZ to talk about her future plans for this landmark of Chicago history. Host: Melba Lara; Reporter: Lauren Frost
The city faces criticism for issuing red light camera tickets at intersections where yellow lights fall slightly short of the city’s 3-second policy. And many traffic engineers say the lights should be even longer.
There was a time Chicago gave New York a run for its money. How did we end up the Second City?
Union Gen. Gordon Granger set up his headquarters in Galveston, Texas, and famously signed an order June 19, 1865, “All slaves are free.” President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday last year.
As the U.S. celebrates the second federal holiday honoring Juneteenth, several myths persist about the origins and history about what happened when enslaved people were emancipated in Texas.