Union Station today is a celebrated architectural icon and vibrant centerpiece of Los Angeles’s regional transportation network. Designed by John and Donald B. Parkinson, its mission revival architecture speaks to a mythic vision of Spanish heritage, but with streamline moderne and art deco details. At first glance this masterpiece, conceived as a magnificent gateway to the growing metropolis, offers no hint of the civic, financial, and legal battles surrounding its development, siting, style, and construction—battles that were waged across decades in the early twentieth century and that went as high as the U.S. Supreme Court.
Los Angeles Union Station explores this compelling example of how transit and corporations disrupted regional balances of power and political economies. Aided by new research and beautiful drawings from the Getty Research Institute’s archive, the authors demonstrate how contentious politics informed architectural design—and the many ways in which Union Station was at the heart of the rise of Los Angeles. The book accompanies the exhibition No Further West, on view at the Los Angeles Public Library from May 2 through August 10, 2014.
Marlyn Musicant is a senior exhibitions coordinator at the Getty Research Institute. William Deverell is professor of history at the University of Southern California and director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. Matthew W. Roth is director of corporate archives at the Automobile Club of Southern California and the founding curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum.
“Los Angeles Union Station . . . is a tribute to LA’s railway station. . . . The gorgeously illustrated volume . . . does more than make the nostalgically inclined among us year for a more graceful era of travel. It argues that Union Station was central to LA’s struggles over transportation.”
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