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Great Railroad Stations - South Bend, Indiana

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

South Bend, Indiana

Union Station, South Bend was shared by the New York Central and Grand Trunk Western Railroad.  Opened in 1929, its Art Deco facade is immediately pleasing, and interestingly, this depot is related to two other famous stations of the same era.

South Bendís Union station was built at a time when the city was an important industrial center.  NYC hired architects Fellheimer & Wagner to design a medium sized station, one that reflected the mood of the country just before the Wall Street crash.  The rounded barrel arch roof and elevated platforms fit neatly into the snug downtown location. Behind the station rises the former Studebaker automobile manufacturing plant, once the source of much of South Bendís wealth and status.  Ideally situated on NYCís Water Level Route, South Bend prospered, and its Union station was a very busy place.

The simple, yet beautiful brick pattern details and barrel roof highlights what would otherwise be an unremarkable structure.  Of course, Fellheimer & Wagnerís other creations of the same era, Buffalo Central Terminal and Cincinnati Union Terminal were much larger commissions, built on a grand scale, and meant to accommodate huge volumes of passengers.  But South Bend has many similarities to both and incorporates these features.  The curving roof resembles the dome of Cincinnati.  The brickwork details and window treatments echo Buffaloís station.

Passenger service for the famous Notre Dame University located in the city must have made the depot especially busy.  No doubt football specials each Autumn were a part of the ritual.  South Bend has always been a hub city in this part of the state.  In addition to the NYC & Grand Trunk, the Pennsylvania RR also entered the city.  However it did not use Union Station, opting instead for itís turn of the century depot a few blocks away on the opposite side of the Studebaker plant.  Today Union Station is in private use.  Amtrak moved to  the former 1970 CSS&SB depot.  Perhaps some day the wonderful barrel arch concourse will echo again rail passengers footsteps

Union Station, South Bend. Opened in 1929, perhaps some day it will again serve rail passengers. The potential is there. Photo by Jon Rothenmeyer, June 6, 1999

 

 

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