60 Years Ago, Portland, Maine’s Union Station Was Reduced To Rubble
On August 31, 1961, one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings ever built in Portland was destroyed, creating a movement to preserve Portland's landmarks.
Union Station was built in 1888 on St. John in Portland and served the Boston and Maine Railroad which traveled south to Boston, and the Maine Central Railroad that traveled north to Bangor. It was the hub of transportation in Portland for 70 years until the automobile and the Interstate System gave Mainers independence. No longer did they have to plan a trip based on a train schedule. They could just hop in their cars and go when they wanted to go.
Union Station was a huge building and an architectural marvel, built out of granite and with a clock tower that stood 188 feet tall. It looked over the gateway to downtown Portland until it made way for what some called progress.
In 1960, passenger service ended at Union Station and the city was in the midst of urban renewal. Rather than find a new tenant for the historic building, it was demolished on August 31, 1961 to make room for what is now Union Station Plaza, an unremarkable shopping center with none of the architectural style of the majestic building that once stood there.
As the tall clock towered started to fall, a photographer captured a photo of it crumbling just before it hit the ground. It's a sad photo that sparked a new movement in Portland.
In 1964, Greater Portland Landmarks was formed in response to the fate of Union Station with a mission to preserve and revitalize greater Portland's historic buildings, neighborhoods, and parks.
Portland is once again in a state of growth, but for the most part, these historic buildings are being preserved. A good example is the Grand Trunk Railroad office building on India Street which was renovated and now occupied by Gorham Savings Bank.
Only two things remain from Union Station. The first is the clock which is on display in Congress Square.
The second is one-fifth of the train shed which is now at Thompson's Point.
Here's What Portland Looked Like 100 Years Ago
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