Alexandria Union Station
110 Callahan Drive
Alexandra Union Station was built in 1905 in the Colonial-Revival style with Federal details. Designed by the Pennsylvania Railroad’s office of the chief engineer in Philadelphia, the passenger station’s name was derived from its development as a “union” station through the consolidation of rail lines in Alexandria. Inspiration for the building’s design and architectural elements drew from the urban planning movement known as the City Beautiful that developed in Washington, D.C., during the same time-period. This new era was a prominent change from the design of public buildings as mere service and function to one of civic pride, which was marked by superior detailing and promoting a sense of arrival via a municipal gateway.
Two buildings, a passenger depot and a baggage building, comprise the one-story station. During restoration in 1997, a glass-enclosed breezeway was built to connect the two buildings. The architectural significance of the station stems from the unusual use of the delicate Colonial-Revival style with Federal details for its design vocabulary. At the time, most depots were designed in bolder Victorian or Beaux Arts styles reflecting the nature of grandly scaled industrialized transport systems. The Federal Revival style is an early 20th century mixture of Neoclassical architectural details borrowed from buildings constructed just after the American revolution and is, therefore, particularly appropriate for Alexandria.
In 1997, the City of Alexandria led a restoration funded through the Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act of 1991. The restoration addressed accessibility requirements and enclosed the breezeway, but for the most part returned the station to its 1905 appearance. The City of Alexandria took ownership of the
station in 2000. It still serves Alexandria’s long-distance and commuter rail travelers with Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) trains.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial
The concrete, limestone and granite Veterans of Foreign Wars memorial was erected on the lawn in front of the station in 1942. Long-time residents may remember a World War I Renault tank installed on a concrete pad adjacent to the memorial. According to Amtrak officials, the tank was removed to a VFW museum in
Huntington, West Virginia in the early 1980s and restored to running condition.
Visiting Union Station
The station waiting room is open for Amtrak passengers and other visitors from 6:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. daily.
- The Alexandria Union Station, by Al Cox, AIA. Historic Alexandria Quarterly, Winter 1996.
- An Historic Structure Report: An
Analysis of the Alexandria Union Station 1994/95, Prepared for the City of Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, by Al Cox, AIA, staff Architect, Department of Planning and Zoning, 1995.
Tracking the history of Alexandria’s Union Station. Out of the Attic, Alexandria Times, April 4, 2013
Alexandria’s Union Station, a historic hub. Out of the Attic, Alexandria
Times, April 25, 2019
- All aboard at Alexandria’s Union Station. Out of the Attic, Alexandria Times, September 5, 2019.
National Register of Historic Places
Union Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the following description:
The Alexandria Union Station, built in 1905, provides an intact representation of regional railroad planning and mid-Atlantic terminal design in the early 20th century. Associated with important regional and local transportation trends, the station meets Criterion A requirements. The City Beautiful movement, introduced in nearby Washington, D.C., in the early 1900s, influenced the station's development as a union station through the consolidation of rail lines in Alexandria. This marked a shift from the construction of utilitarian rail stations to architecturally significant stations that were planned as municipal gateways and provided efficient and safe rail travel.