ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Unless you’re coming into the Twin Cities by rail, a train station probably doesn’t make your must-see list.

But, in this week’s Guest Pass we found the exception. St. Paul’s Union Depot is bright, beautiful and full of history and activity.

“When this was in its prime,” said Director of the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority Tim Mayasich, “there were 20 tracks down below, there were 282 trains a day out of this facility and 20,000 passengers a day.”

After World War II, the Union Depot was the hub of activity in Minnesota’s capital city, but just a few decades later, it was facing demolition.

“I think they were one vote away in the house or the senate to tear it down,” Mayasich said. “And it didn’t get through appropriations and it was saved.”

As recently as five years ago, most of the Union Depot was closed to the public. That was until a $243 million renovation brought this St. Paul gem back to life.

What stands out most about the Union Depot, is the color of the ceiling paint which is a bright mustard yellow. As part of the renovation, 23 layers of paint and three layers of primer were peeled away to determine the original color.

“I’ve learned to love it,” Mayasich said. “It took a little time, but if you see it in photos, it’s very, very striking.”

The Union Depot is a photographer’s dream. In addition to the ceilings with their hard-crafted rosettes, there are the marble floors and stunning arched windows.

“When you think of the lack of technology in 1917 and the 20s and what they created, really by hand, it’s truly amazing and beautiful to look at,” said the Depot’s Marketing Manager Tina Volpe.

The Union Depot is rich in history and tradition, but there are touches of modernity throughout, including five large public art displays.

“There are several pieces of furniture and items around the building that you can actually listen to the building talk to you,” Volpe said.

With traditional Amtrak service in the back of the building, and new LRT Green Line running out front, the Union Depot blends history with innovation.

“I’ve yet to see the interest wane on this project, it continues to be high, and it’s got a great story,” Mayasich said.

The Union Depot offers free public tours once a week. They also host a game night every Wednesday, show holiday movies and hold free yoga classes.

You can find more info here.

Matt Brickman

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