Everyone visiting Seattle by rail arrives at and departs from King Street Station. But this was not always true. There were once two active railway stations, placed only a block apart. Strangely, the forgotten one is the more splendid of the two.
The second of Seattle’s two great passenger railway stations, Oregon and Washington Station (later renamed Union Station), opened May 20, 1911. It was designed for grandeur, to announce that Seattle was a rival of New York and Chicago.
Designed by architect Daniel J. Patterson, Union Station was built to the east of King Street Station, on the opposite side of the tracks. It serviced the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, as well as the Union Pacific Railroad.
King Street Station had opened only a few years prior, in 1906. The two stations operated side-by-side for much of the 20th century. At the architecturally striking Union Station, travelers could do far more than just sit and wait for a train. The station included a small hospital, a separate ladies’ waiting room, restaurants, and a barber shop.
But as fate would have it, Seattle’s grand station was short-lived. The Milwaukee Road discontinued service on May 22, 1961, just over 50 years to the day from the station’s opening. In 1971, Union Pacific also quit the station, and it was shuttered for nearly 30 years.
Renovated in 2000, the building now houses offices for Sound Transit. The Great Hall is open to the public during business hours. Despite its beauty, the space is usually quiet, except when rented out for weddings or other events.
Know Before You Go
The station is open to the public from 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.