Celebration will mark 100th anniversary of Union Station

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Sound Transit, Alliance for Pioneer Square, and National Park Service will host centennial celebration of iconic landmark

Community members are invited to celebrate a century of railroad history as Seattle's iconic Union Station turns 100 years old next Friday, May 20. A 100th anniversary celebration will feature walking tours, a model train exhibit, and live brass band. Hosted by Sound Transit, the Alliance for Pioneer Square and the National Park Service, the event will take place from 2 - 7 p.m. at Union Station at 401 South Jackson Street. A formal program will begin at 5 p.m.

Now headquarters to Sound Transit, Union Station opened on May 20, 1911. Home to the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Company (later Union Pacific Railroad), the station's classical proportions, styling and ornamentation were fused with a red brick façade then considered progressive by The Seattle Times. Inside, a massive Great Hall adorned with marble tiles and an arched ceiling spanning 160 feet long and 60 feet wide-the city's largest-greeted travelers. Additional features included a men's private smoking room and barbershop, a women's rest area, and a waiting room for immigrants.

Union Station housed passenger rail service for 60 years before the Great Depression and advent of the American automobile reduced train traffic by 70 percent between 1916 and 1935. World War II brought thousands of Pacific-bound soldiers and renewed energy to Union Station, but by the 1950s and 1960s, construction of interstate highways and the popularity of airline travel dealt huge blows to the passenger rail industry. Union Station closed after Amtrak assumed operations of national passenger rail service in 1971 and named King Street Station its terminal.

The building fell into disrepair and was shuttered for the next three decades. In 1998, Union Station Associates, LLC (a partnership of Paul Allen and Nitze-Stagen & Co.) agreed to restore the historic building for use as Sound Transit headquarters. The $21 million renovation was completed in 1999, and Union Station was christened as Sound Transit's headquarters on Oct. 16 that year.

Rail service returned to Union Station in 2009 with Sound Transit's opening of Central Link light rail. Each day thousands of commuters ride sleek, electricity-powered light rail trains to and from the International District/Chinatown Station, located beneath the plaza immediately east of Union Station.

The community celebration on Friday will include the launch of "Trail to Treasure", a historic interpretive trail through Pioneer Square, walking tours, and exhibits for major planning efforts in the neighborhood. A commemorative Union Station poster and other merchandise will be available for sale.