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Nash Square, showing Union Station, Raleigh, N.C.

Union Station_web

This week’s Flashback Friday postcard features an early image of Raleigh’s Union Station as viewed across Nash Square. The old building still stands at the corner of Dawson and Martin Streets, but you would hardly recognize it today.

Union Station_back_web

I’m guessing a young fellow was practicing his penmanship when he wrote this message to his father back in Oregon about his cross-country train trip.

Dear Father
Got in Greensboro at 10:30 p.m. and changed cars. Then we went to bed and slept till 3:30 a.m. Then we got off the train and went to a hotel to fin[ish] our sleep.

Perhaps the hotel young Master Colwell went to catch up on his sleep was the Hotel Raleigh, which was located just across Nash Square from the station.

Nash Square_web

The Hotel Raleigh, with its prominent corner tower, mirrored Union Station across Nash Square.

Union Station, a collaborative project of the Raleigh & Gaston, the North Carolina, the Seaboard Air Line, and the Richmond & Danville railroads, opened with much fanfare in August 1892. The News & Observer featured the station’s debut on its front page with a detailed description of the new building and its amenities:

It is an elegant structure and one of which Raleigh may feel proud. … The interior is handsomely finished in oak and all the waiting rooms have been furnished with elegant and comfortable oak settees of unique design. … the waiting rooms are equipped with lavatories and closets of the most approved model and thorough convenience.

Directory of the city of Raleigh, N.C., 1896-'97 : containing th

This illustration of the new Union Station accompanied a glowing article on the front page of the N&O on August 21, 1892.

Union Station featured two block-long passenger platforms, elaborate decorative brickwork, a massive slate roof, and a prominent 60-foot tower on its northeast corner.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This retouched photo dating from 1928 shows the façade of Union Station sporting great double marquees that were never built.

The design of Union Station followed the ‘stub-end terminal’ model, which required trains to either back in or back out of the car shed. This inconvenience ultimately led Seaboard to build its own ‘run-through terminal’ station just north of Peace St. in 1942. Southern Railway followed suit with its own ‘run-through terminal’ station on Cabarrus St. in 1950. The Seaboard Station is now occupied by Logan’s Garden Center and the Southern Rwy station now serves Raleigh’s Amtrak passengers.

The railroads ultimately sold the Nash Square property, and the abandoned, outdated relic of a bygone era was repurposed in the early 1950s as an office building. A second floor was inserted in the vast interior space, the wide overhanging eaves were removed, the façade was bricked over, and, sadly, the grand 60-foot tower was demolished.

Today, Raleigh’s old Union Station, though now but a shadow of its former self,  still presides over Nash Square at the corner of Dawson and Martin Streets.


Happily, a new Raleigh Union Station is now being planned to accommodate 21st century train travel. The regional transportation hub will occupy a long-vacant warehouse in the former Dillon Supply complex a couple blocks to the west of the old station. Groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in 2015.

Photo credit: John Morris

Photo credit: John Morris

The public is invited to attend the third in the series of Public Information Sessions regarding the planning and design of the future Raleigh Union Station. The purpose is to  solicit input regarding program elements. Conceptual plans will also be available for review and comments. The event will be held June 26, 2013, 6-8 pm, at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), 409 W. Martin St.


Our feature postcard this week was published by Harry C. Latta, and mailed in 1911. Latta was the chief clerk at the Hotel Raleigh, and probably commissioned this card to be sold to guests.


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


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