In its day, Dayton’s Union Station was a “handsome palace”

Dayton’s Union Station was the majestic and bustling train hub of the city for decades.

Described as a “handsome palace” when the train station opened at Sixth and Ludlow Streets in 1900, it was crowned by a seven-story clock tower. The new “Tower Depot” replaced an earlier round-topped depot built in the mid-1850s.

Dayton Daily News headlines described the station’s July 1, 1900, dedication as “A Happy Day” and a “Splendid Occasion.”

“No greater evidence of a metropolitan stride has been presented with the passing of the century than the formal opening of Dayton’s magnificent Union railway station today,” the newspaper reported.

The story went on to boast, “It is unquestionably the handsomest in interior construction in the United States.”

Crowds paid 10 cents each to see the inside of the new building. During the dedication they marveled at the blue and white decorations, ate ice cream and confections and twirled across a platform reserved as a dance floor.

During the first 30 years the new station was open, as many as 66 passenger trains served Dayton daily, according to the Dayton Railway Historical Society website.

During the late 1920s, the city looked for ways to alleviate Dayton’s congested streets choked with horses, wagons, autos and street cars.

An elevated train platform was built at the station to unclog the congestion. A local train from Xenia arrived at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 1931, making it the first to use the new aerial tracks, according to the historical society’s research.

For decades, the train station was a point of departure for significant and historical events in the city.

Union Station was the scene of tearful farewells and joyous reunions during the World Wars. Child actress Shirley Temple was greeted at the station in 1944 and escorted downtown to attend the Midwest movie premiere of David O. Selznick’s “Since You Went Away” at Loew’s Theater.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman’s re-election campaign rolled into the station for a speech at Memorial Hall. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan, on a whistle-stop tour through the state, made a call from his presidential train car to the orbiting space shuttle Challenger.

Automobiles and airplanes eventually became the desired mode of transportation in the country, and fewer people rode the rails. The station began downsizing in the 1960s.

Demolition of the depot and its mammoth tower, whose clocks had stopped working in the late 1950s, began in 1964 to make way for the extension of Sixth Street. Over the next 25 years the remaining station downsized and structures were razed bit by bit.

Amtrak, which took over passenger rail services in the county in 1971, continued delivering travelers to Dayton until 1979, when the last passenger train left the station.


HISTORY EXTRA is a weekly pictorial history feature showcasing the Miami Valley’s rich heritage. If you have a unique set of historic photos found in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic that depicts the past in the Miami Valley, contact Lisa Powell at 937-225-2229 or at

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