A continuation of my visit to film and television locations in the Los Angeles area as a means to “walk the walk” of my novel’s characters and bring realism to my storytelling. This week, The Union Station.
Union Station with William Holden (1950)
Union Station isn’t in my next book for a very good reason- it wasn’t opened until 1939. The sequel to Anything Short of Murder ( let’s call it Tom Logan’s adventure #2) is set in 1931, one year after my reader’s first introduction to this hardboiled Hollywood detective. Union Station’s predecessor however, La Grande Station will play a major role in the conclusion of the novel. La Grande was the main passenger terminal in Los Angeles for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe until the opening of Union Station. The final years of La Grande Station was spent in a dismal state after the Long Beach earthquake of 1933. The station occupied an area located at 2nd Street and Santa Fe Ave., and after the completion of the new station was demolished.
Exterior of Union Station
In 1926 a measure was put on the ballot in Los Angeles which offered an option to consolidate the different railroad terminals or construct a network of elevated railways. The former won, and Union Station was born.
Sign outside of Union Station
The location chosen for Union Station was in the heart of the original Chinatown, and a narrow vote of 51 to 48 percent permitted the demolishing of a large part of this section to build the station. Its official address today is 800 North Alameda Street, across from what was the original center of Los Angeles, the pueblo, referred today as Olvera Street.
Looking west towards entrance
The architects John and Donald Parkinson who’d also designed Los Angeles City Hall were partially responsible for Union Station’s design. They were assisted by Jan van der Linden and other supporting architects that combined Dutch Colonial Revival, Streamline Moderne, and Mission Revival to give the station its’ unique look.
Closer look at detailing on ceiling of waiting area
The interior walls are divided into two parts; the upper originally early acoustic tile is now being replaced with cork, and the lower travertine marble. The floor is terra cotta with a strip of marble that runs down the center.
Waiting area looking east. Restaurant is in foreground.
There are two gardens of either side of the waiting room, and attached to the main building on the south side is a restaurant (now closed) that was the last of the Fred Harvey Restaurant chain and designed by famed southwestern architect Mary Colter.
Fountain in garden north of waiting area.
In 1980 Union Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harvey Restaurant, Union Station postcard (courtesy Harvey House Fan site)
Wing off from the waiting area used in Scarecrow courtroom scene in the film, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Although smaller than the other Union Stations, this Los Angeles cousin stands tall amongst the tall palms of Southern California having been seen by countless millions on film and television over the years. Here are just a few:
Them! with James Whitmore & James Arness
Union Station (1950) with William Holden and Nancy Olson.
Southside 1-1000 (1950) with Don Defore and Andrea King.
Them! (1954) with James Whitmore and Joan Weldon.
The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman and Piper Laurie
Silver Streak (1976) with Gene Wilder and Jill Clayburg
Blade Runner (1982) with Harrison Ford and Sean Young
Star Trek: First Contact (1996) with Patrick Stewart and Alice Krige
Pearl Harbor (2001) with Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) with Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Quantum Leap (1989) with Scott Bakula
24 (2001) with Kiefer Sutherland
Alias (2006) with Jennifer Garner
NCIS: Los Angeles (2009) with Chris O’Donnell
Castle (2009) with Nathan Fillion
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Every corner you turn in Los Angeles gives you this feeling of déjà vu, and no more so than this historic station which was a pleasure to visit and share with you today.
Look for the new Tom Logan mystery coming in 2013
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.