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 a new station for passenger traffic in the new Terminal Tower. 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.