Filed Under Transportation

Union Depot

Though the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway highway has since swallowed it up, Union Depot was a transportation hub for a century. Originally built in 1853, Union Depot unified the railroad stations into one area. Many passenger railroads passed through Union Depot, including the Cleveland-Erie-Buffalo railroad, the Cleveland-Cincinnati-Columbus railroad, the Cleveland-Pittsburgh railroad, the Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit railroad, and more. The depot itself consisted of many wooden sheds serving as small stations for each railway. Union Depot cost over $75,000 to build, and stretched from Bank Street to Water Street (today's W. 6th and W.9th streets).

In 1864, Union Depot experienced a terrible fire and burned down. When it was rebuilt in 1865, it became the largest terminal in America. The second Union Depot cost more than $475,000 and remained the largest building under one roof until the New York station exceeded it a few years later. Still, Union Depot remained the largest station between New York and the Mississippi and its centrality allowed Cleveland to prosper after the Civil War. The city kept growing in prominence and importance, and was known for its transportation systems that allowed travel to both the east and west.

During the 1900s, Union Depot became too small for the amount of trains and passengers traveling to and through Cleveland. This problem was solved with the construction of the Cleveland Union Terminal on Public Square. Built in 1930, the new station largely replaced Union Depot, and only the Cleveland-Pennsylvania railroad continued to use Union Depot until September of 1953. The depot was eventually torn down in 1959.

Union Depot played an important role during the Civil War. Thousands of troops passed through the station on their way to basic training camps, such as Camp Dennison near Cincinnati. In December of 1863, Cleveland's Soldiers Aid Society built the Soldiers Home on the Union Depot pier to provide food, clothes, shelter, medical care, and a taste of home to war-weary soldiers. Over fifty thousand soldiers passed through the Soldiers Home and gratefully experienced Cleveland's hospitality.

President Lincoln traveled through Union Depot twice. The first time was during his inaugural tour on his way to Washington, and the second was after his death during his funeral procession from Washington to Springfield, Illinois. Both times Lincoln visited Cleveland, he was accompanied by a grand procession and parade. In 1861, Lincoln traveled from Cleveland to Pennsylvania on his way to Washington. During his funeral procession in 1865, Lincoln's funeral train traveled down the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati railroad, stopping in cities along the way to his resting site in Springfield.

Images

Funeral Train of Abraham Lincoln This funeral train car, dubbed the "The Lincoln Special," carried Abraham Lincoln's body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln's body was accompanied by the body of his deceased son, Willie, who had died in 1862 in the White House. Lincoln and his son were buried together in Springfield, Illinois. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Union Depot Tower, 1930 Union Depot at the foot of West 9th Street, January 1930. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Division of Special Collections.
Lincoln's Funeral Procession Funeral time cards outlining the travel itinerary of President Lincoln's funeral train were printed in the local papers. This time card, printed in Cleveland papers, shows the timeline for the funeral procession from Erie to Cleveland. The funeral procession traveled throughout large parts of the North, stopping in numerous cities so that Americans could bid farewell to their beloved president. Hundreds of countryside dwellers who could not travel to the cities gathered along the tracks to at least get a glimpse of Lincoln's funeral car. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Military Railroads in the Union Railroads served as the primary form of transportation during the Civil War. Thousands of soldiers traveled through Union Depot in Cleveland on their way to basic training camps and battlefields. Especially the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati railroad served as an important railway for soldiers on their way to Camp Dennison near Cincinnati. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Division of Special Collections.
Cleveland Railways A map depicting the railway systems in Cleveland, including the numerous lines that travel to Union Depot.
Sketch of Union Depot This sketch of Union Depot's passenger terminal was done shortly after Union Depot was rebuilt in 1864. When it was first built, this structure was the largest station building under one roof. The Union Depot terminal was so large that it stretched over more than three blocks, from today's W.6th Street to W. 9th Street. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Bustling Depot Union Depot remained an important center for transportation in Cleveland and in the greater Midwest well into the twentieth century. In this picture from the 1920s, Union Depot is a busy and bustling hub of passengers, trains, and cargo. This is an eastward view of the terminal, taken from W. 9th Street. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Funeral Path of President Lincoln This map depicts the funeral procession for President Abraham Lincoln from Washington D.C. to his hometown in Springfield, Illinois, where he was finally laid to rest. The funeral procession followed the same path that Lincoln took during his inaugural tour in 1861. The Lincoln funeral procession arrived in Cleveland on Friday, April 28, 1865 at 7:00am. After more than 150,000 Clevelanders had paid their respects to the deceased president in Public Square, Lincoln was escorted to Union Depot. The procession left Cleveland that night for Columbus, Ohio via the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati railroad which was centered in Union Depot. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

Location

Metadata

Adena Muskin, “Union Depot,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 17, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/335.