Union Station

The Hub of Transportation

Imagine this building as the central location for industry and modernity in 19th-century Providence. Picture a tangle of railroad tracks and constant motion, with engineers and manufacturers working hard to support (arguably) the most important place downtown––the railroad station. In the late 19th century Union Station was the hub of southeastern New England’s transportation network. Goods came and went through this terminal supporting the machinery, textile, and jewelry industries that fueled the growth and future of Providence.

Union Railroad Station was built from 1896-1898 by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad company overlooking Exchange Place. Initially the complex consisted of five buildings to support the increase of passenger rail travel and material goods, but then simplified into a singular structure. Union Station was praised for its stately symmetrical design but also criticized for the long building and web of tracks that separated the train station from the Rhode Island State House behind it. With the decline of rail travel in the 1980s, Union Station was closed and a smaller station was opened closer to the State House. It took a herculean effort to remove the winding tracks described as a “Chinese Wall” to simplify the area and create today’s Exchange Terrace. Notably, modern structures built in the block of Union Station mirror the Italian Renaissance style architecture of the original building, retaining the city’s historic roots. Now, Union Station is home to several nonprofits, restaurants, and RIPR, the local public radio station.  


Tracks Near Union Station

Tracks Near Union Station

Multiple buildings made up Providence's Union Station; two of the buildings are captured here. View File Details Page

<span id="docs-internal-guid-4bd58f4d-f7f3-694b-4e4a-9df8794f12ec"><span>Local Transportation</span></span>

Local Transportation

With City Hall in the background and people getting on the trolley car in the foreground, it's clear that Union station was in a prime location to serve as a transportation hub for the city and region. View File Details Page

Historic View of Union Station

Historic View of Union Station

Here you can see all five buildings of Union Station. Take note of the smoke stacks in the background indicating Providence's industrial might. (c. 1912) View File Details Page


Mack Woodward Audio

Listen as historian Mack Woodward talks about the significance of the railroad in Providence’s development. View File Details Page

Street Address:

40 Exchange Terrace
Providence, RI 02903 [map]

Cite this Page:

Amelia Golcheski, “Union Station,” Rhode Tour, accessed July 23, 2017, http://rhodetour.org/items/show/209.

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