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  • Writer's pictureMel Dick

Orange Groves to Snow!!!

Day 2 of our return journey to Sandpoint. We left 80+ degree weather in sunny Miami yesterday only to arrive to cold and snow early this morning in Washington D.C. Along the way we traveled through the bustling cities of Eastern Florida, farming and ranching communities of Central Florida and passed numerous orange groves. Last night we traveled through Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia. Today we had a 9 hour layover in D.C. and had planned to spend that time touring various museums and monuments in our nation's capital. Much to our dismay, most public attractions were shut down due to COVID-19. And, given the 30 degree weather and snow, walking down the National Mall without proper Northern Idaho attire was out of the question.

Much to our surprise the Miami train station was small....not much more than a mid-sized Greyhound bus terminal....located in an rather desolate area that our Uber driver didn't seem to know existed. We were equally surprised when we arrived at Union Station in Washington D.C. The station is a superbly restored, historic, mixed-use, intermodal transportation and shopping center located just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

As evidenced by the fifth picture above, taken prior to COVID, it is a historic cultural hub servicing more than 90,000 people a day as a major transportation center, retail destination, and tourist attraction. The other pictures of Union Station were taken throughout the day....many of the shops and restaurants were closed, few people were traveling and walking around the majestic station was somewhat of a surreal was as if the world had stopped especially after spending the past 2 months in bustling Key West.

Union Station is one of the country’s first great railroad terminals....many would argue on par or better than Grand Central Station in NYC. The station opened in 1907 and during its heyday in the early 1940’s, Union Station was a thriving transportation hub serving up to 42,000 passengers daily. After 1945, conditions deteriorated quickly. Demand on transportation during World War II wore greatly on the station, and repairs were often done inexpensively, diminishing the station’s elegance. Public trends shifted from rail to cars and planes for long-distance travel, which further diminished rail passenger revenues, station activity and the feeling of excitement that once percolated through the building.

In the late 1950s, the Station’s owners began searching for an alternative use. In 1964, the District of Columbia designated the building an historic landmark and in 1969 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places; Columbus Plaza, located in the front of the station as pictured above, was listed in 1980. During the mid-1960s, the federal government took over the building for use as a new National Visitor Center. However, a lack of funding for the conversion, poor design and changing tastes made it a failure soon after it opened in 1976. In 1981, Congress passed the Union Station Redevelopment Act which lead to the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the Union Station to it's present day grandeur.

Tonight we are off to Chicago and whatever tomorrow may bring.

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