CHICAGO – On November 29, 2018, Amtrak unveiled Chicago Union Station’s renewed Great Hall, painted in its original colors and made brighter by a restored skylight and improved lighting accenting the impressive space.
The station, completed in 1925, was designed by Daniel Burnham and successor firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. The centerpiece of the Great Hall is a 219-foot-long skylight that soars 115 feet above the floor. It had deteriorated due to flaws within the original design that led to water damage to the skylight and the walls.
The restoration work, undertaken by architect Goettsch Partners (GP) and contractor Berglund Construction, minimized disruption to the flow of people through the station by using a suspended working deck and swing stages, in lieu of much scaffolding.
In order to maintain the historic appearance of the skylight from within the Great Hall, to protect it and to overcome issues with the original drainage system, the team constructed a modern energy-efficient skylight with 858 panes of clear high-efficiency glass five feet above the original skylight. Natural light into the Great Hall is increased by about 50 percent by replacing the 2,052 pieces of glass in the historic skylight with a textured glass surface matching the original look.
The $22 million Amtrak-funded project also included a new elevator from Canal Street, restoration of the “Day” and “Night” statues and 24 chandeliers, and installation of 27 reproduction light fixtures. Water-damaged plaster and stone was restored, and historic paint colors applied to the walls and ceiling.
“This work enhances our customer experience, with a much brighter and inviting Great Hall,” said David Handera, Amtrak vice president, Stations, Properties and Accessibility. “Amtrak has concentrated efforts to ensure our stations are universally accessible and the new elevator from the west side of Canal Street provides an ease of station access for everyone.”
The area’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and the City of Chicago have been Amtrak partners in planning for the station’s future and its redevelopment.
“The splendor of the Great Hall reminds us of what a great architectural gem Union Station is, just as Amtrak is launching the next phase of the project that will renovate and activate the west side of the room to provide more food service and retail space,” said Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner, Chicago Department of Transportation.
Chicago Union Station serves 37.6 million Amtrak and Metra rail passengers annually, 120,000 on a typical weekday. Chicago is the fourth busiest station in the Amtrak national network and a hub for Long Distance trains serving the West and midwestern corridor services.