In a joint statement on March 31, 1929, plans were announced by both Union Pacific and Burlington officials detailing the construction of a new Union Station and for the remodeling of the Burlington Depot. The purpose of the collaboration between the two railroads was to provide "...Omaha railroad passengers, terminal facilities equal to those of any city of its size in the country."
Construction began on Union Station in May of 1929. It was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood and Company in the art deco style of architecture. Mr. Underwood designed every detail of the building, including light fixtures, filing cabinets, and doorplates. Each component contains art deco details.
The new Union Station, with some 124,000 square feet of interior space, was constructed on the same site as the first Union Station, taking twenty months to complete. The cost, $3.5 million, was one-tenth of what it would require to construct today.
The focal point of the station is the current Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall. Measuring one hundred sixty feet by seventy-two feet it is spanned by a sixty-five foot high ceiling. The Hall contains ten cathedral-like plate glass windows, a patterned terrazzo floor, columnettes of blue Belgian marble and a wainscoting of black Belgian marble. Six immense chandeliers, thirteen feet tall and suspended 20 feet from the ceiling, light the Great Hall.
The station originally boasted thirteen sets of tracks supporting trains that carried passengers to and from Omaha. The tracks were located to the south of the station. As planned, the increased trackage allowed Union Station to support Union Pacific, Rock Island, Missouri Pacific, Milwaukee, Wabash, Great Western, Illinois Central and North Western Railroads. Combining efforts with the Burlington Depot made Omaha the fourth largest railroad center in the United States.
Facilities were designed into the station to provide for the convenience of passengers and included a taxi stand, baggage check, dining room, gift shop and soda fountain, telegraph and telephone room, barber shop, first-aid station, and a ladies lounge. During the World War II years a USO center with letter writing facilities, dormitory and shower/bath facilities was carved out of existing space.
Union Station was completed and opened as a passenger train station. The dedication ceremony was held on January 15, 1931.
Union Station closed in 1971 after Congress established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, now Amtrak, to handle all railroad passenger travel.
Union Station given to the city of Omaha.
Union Station opened as the Western Heritage Museum displaying small regional history exhibits and private collections.
Restoration of Union Station began and required the Museum to be closed for a period of six months. The $22 million renovation project included a new parking deck, a new roof, new mechanical and electrical systems, new office spaces, classrooms, gift shop, and new permanent exhibits.
The current Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall was repainted and restored. Interactive sculptures were added to the Great Hall, and a 22,000 square foot addition, now the Trish and Dick Davidson Gallery was built over Track #1, next to the station.
The renovation project was completed and the Western Heritage Museum reopened to the public.
The Western Heritage Museum is re-named the Durham Western Heritage museum in honor of Charles and Margre Durham, the driving forces behind its restoration.
During 2002 the museum welcomed its one millionth visitor. In October, the Durham Western Heritage Museum is named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. This partnership allows the Museum access to Smithsonian artifacts through direct loan or as a part of traveling exhibits. In addition, access to educational programs is also available.
Construction began on the Velde Gallery of American History, a 12,500 square foot addition designed to house temporary exhibits.
Construction of the Velde Gallery is completed and Churchill and the Great Republic, an offering from our newest national partner, the Library of Congress is the inaugural exhibit in the new space.
Renovation of the 1899 boiler house, a relic of the first Union Station, commences. The renovated facility houses a 256 seat theatre style auditorium equipped with state of the art audio and video and distance learning technology.
Collaboration has grown to include not only the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress but the National Archives and prestigious private institutions including the Field Museum.