16.11.15

RECLAIMING THE PUBLIC SPACES.

Although the concourse building at Chicago Union Station long ago disappeared to make room for an air rights development, part of the ongoing liquidation that was The Pennsylvania Railroad's business model after 1950 or so, the Chicago real estate market was not at the time buoyant enough to fund a replacement of the headhouse.  But over the years, the Fred Harvey dining room burned, the watchmakers and ancillary businesses that supported the railroad moved out, and a number of the auxiliary public spaces were closed off.  But with passenger traffic through the station rising, and possibly exceeding, that during World War II, some of those spaces are being opened and repurposed.  For example, the former women's lounge is being remodeled as a paid respite space for coach passengers (the sleeping car and business class passengers rate the Metropolitan Lounge in the concourse building) to separate themselves from the madding crowds in the waiting room (which is sometimes cordoned off for fundraisers) or in the few seats in the departure lounge.

Chicago Magazine got a tour of some of those off-limits spaces.  You'll recognize similarities in the ceiling treatments of the main waiting room and the ladies lounge and restaurant to those in the old Pennsylvania Station in New York, also a casualty of that slow-motion liquidation.

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