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Vintage KSDK: St. Louis Union Station reopens to the public

Once one of the busiest train stations in the country, St. Louis Union Station would see its last passenger train depart in 1978. Then came a rebirth.

ST. LOUIS — Every Thursday we show you a gem from our vast KSDK archives. This week, we go back to 1985, when a renovated St. Louis Union Station reopened.

Grand opening ceremonies were held on August 29, 1985.

The historic property had undergone a $135 million dollar renovation.

To celebrate, thousands of people swarmed Market Street for a parade, and speeches by dignitaries including Cardinal legend Joe Garagiola.

Credit: KSDK
Former Cardinal Joe Garagiola speaking to the crowd at the grand reopening of St. Louis Union Station.

"Last night, when I drove down Market Street,” Garagiola told the crowd, “I saw the lights on the water fountains were going, and a line of cabs here, I said we're back, we're back! Aren't you proud?"

Also on display, “before” and “after” photos of the Grand Hall. So much of the beauty that could be seen in photos from 1943, fully restored in the refurbished Union Station.

Credit: KSDK
St. Louis Union Station, circa 1943.

St. Louis Union Station opened on September 1, 1894. In the 1940s, it was one of the busiest train stations in the country, with 100 thousand passengers a day.  

And history was made here. A day after the 1948 Presidential election, Harry Truman would declare victory at St. Louis Union Station in a moment made famous by a newspaper photo.

Credit: KSDK
President Harry S. Truman at St. Louis Union Station, circa 1948.

But as rail traffic declined in the 1950s, so did the need for this historic landmark. The last train would leave Union Station on October 31, 1978.

Less than 10 years later, the massive train shed and station would get a second lease on life as the largest commercial re-use project in the nation at the time.

Credit: KSDK
The renovated Grand Hall at St. Louis Union Station, circa 1985.

"This is a very fantastic complex,” said Stan McKissick, who ran a shoeshine business, on the day of the reopening. “And I hope St. Louis will make it one of the best things that's happened to this town in a long time." 

The 1980s re-born version of Union Station included a fully restored Grand Hall, a 500-room hotel, restaurants, a shopping mall, and a food court.

For a time, Union Station was once again one of the city's most-visited attractions.