Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Truman last president to speak at Union Terminal

By John Johnston jjohnston@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        George W. Bush isn't the first president to pick Cincinnati's historic art deco train station as the backdrop for an appearance. The scene of Mr. Bush's Monday address was used for two other presidential speeches.

        On Oct. 11, 1948, President Truman began a 10-city, whistlestop campaign in Ohio with a speech at the train station. He returned two days after the election, on Nov. 4, 1948, and delivered a two-minute victory speech.

        President Franklin D. Roosevelt also came through Union Terminal, on Oct. 16, 1936, but he spoke at other Cincinnati locations.

        Other historical highlights:

        The building, constructed for $41 million, opened in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression. It was designed to handle passenger traffic well into the 21st century. The rotunda is the largest half-dome in the Western Hemisphere, spanning 180 feet and measuring 106 feet high. German immigrant Winold Reiss created 22 mosaic murals for the concourse and rotunda.

        During World War II, the terminal was a major transfer point for soldiers, serving 20,000 passengers on some days.

        By the 1950s, with the railroad industry in decline, the terminal was declared a white elephant. But it continued operating as a passenger railroad station until 1972.

        In 1973, the concourse was demolished by Southern Railway to make way for expanded freight service. Before demolition, 14 of Mr. Reiss' mosaic murals were moved to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        After passenger service ended, the terminal stood vacant for eight years. It reopened in 1980 as a short-lived shopping center.

        In the mid-1980s, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Cincinnati Historical Society developed plans for a joint museum. In 1986, Hamilton County voters approved a $33 million bond issue to restore the terminal. State, city and private funds also were contributed.

        In November 1990, the terminal reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center. It now includes the Cincinnati History Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater and the Cinergy Children's Museum. The center had 1.47 million visitors last year.

        In 1991, passenger train service returned when Amtrak scheduled a Cincinnati stop on a route between Chicago and Washington.


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