Amtrak Honored For Union Station Renovations

If you prowl the halls of Congress, you don’t hear a lot of good things said about Amtrak.  It’s a popular punching bag among beltway insiders who like to grips about money not spent in their districts.    But if you’re a regular Amtrak rider (3k miles this year for me), you’ve probably noticed that things are — slowly, but surely — getting better at America’s largest passenger railroad.

Renovation of the Burlington Room at Chicago Union Station (Courtesy of Landmarks Illinois)

Renovation of the Burlington Room at Chicago Union Station (Courtesy of Landmarks Illinois)

One of those signs of progress is the recent renovations at Chicago Union Station (200 South Canal Street), where the big train company recently renovated the Metropolitan Lounge, the Legacy Club, and the highlight of the trio — the Burlington Room, which was formerly the shuttered Women’s Lounge.

Friends-of-the-blog Goettsch Partners was the lead architect involved.  In the Burlington Room, it made sure that history wasn’t forgotten.  Murals have been restored.  Bronze light fixtures revived.  The Burlington Room, which was closed for the last couple of decades, will now become a revenue center, as event space.  With the added benefit that passengers in the Great Hall no longer have to be displaced when events take place.

Meanwhile, over in the Metropolitan Lounge, things look like an upscale private airport lounge.  With one added truck stop amenity: praise the Lord, there are showers!

Every day hundreds of people get off of long-distance trains from one coast, headed to the other, in Chicago.  And after 44 hours on the Southwest Chief, a little Irish Spring does a world of good.  Now if only someone can get a memo to L.A. Union Station that cabbing it to the Y is not a proper solution, that would be great.

The payoff for the $60 million that Amtrak has spent on Union Station in the last six years is an award from Landmarks Illinois, which is going to give the railroad its Real Estate and Building Industries Council Award at the end of the month.

Landmarks Illinois sent over the photos below of the Burlington Room restoration in progress.  You can read its full press release following.

Landmarks Illinois Hosts Cocktail Reception at Chicago Union Station to Honor Amtrak for Historical Restoration Projects

CHICAGO, IL – Landmarks Illinois, a statewide nonprofit advocating for the protection of historic and architecturally significant properties throughout the state, will present Amtrak with its 2016 Real Estate and Building Industries Council (RBIC) Award at a cocktail networking reception Wednesday, November 30, 2016 from 6-8 p.m. in the newly restored Burlington Room at Chicago Union Station, 500 W. Jackson Blvd.

The annual RBIC event honors a recently redeveloped building or place and the project team responsible for the transformation. This year’s event celebrates the grand opening of the Burlington Room, a 3,900-square-foot event space for up to 295 guests, located just off Union Station’s Great Hall. Named after one of the founding Chicago Union railroads, the Burlington Room formerly served as the Women’s Lounge, but has been closed to the general public for decades, used primarily as storage and office space. Amtrak’s restoration work in the Burlington Room included repairing water damage and deteriorating plasterwork as well as restoring the column capitals and four mural paintings. Historic bronze light fixtures have also been brought back into the space, returning some of its original glamour.

“Amtrak’s extensive restoration work in the Burlington Room and throughout Union Station is remarkable,” said Landmarks Illinois President and CEO Bonnie McDonald. “Through its financial reinvestment, and hiring top-notch designers, contractors and craftspeople, Amtrak has made it possible for people to wonder again at the grandeur and beauty of our iconic Chicago train station.”

Goettsch Partners served as the lead architect for the Burlington Room restoration project. Amtrak’s additional restoration work throughout Union Station included repairing the walls, roof and skylights in the Great Hall and transforming the former Union Gallery into the Legacy Club where, for a monthly fee, passengers can relax and connect to Wi-Fi. The RBIC event will feature tours of the Burlington Room, the Legacy Club and the redesigned 16,000-square-foot, two-story Metropolitan Lounge.

“Amtrak has made more than $60 million in improvements to the station since 2010, and we appreciate the recognition of our efforts by Landmarks Illinois,” said Mark Murphy, Amtrak senior vice president and general manager of the business line responsible for the station.

Tickets for the RBIC event are available at $100 (private sector) and $50 (nonprofits/public sector). Reservations are required, and space is limited. To purchase tickets, click here. For more information on the event, visit our events page at or call 312-922-1742. Proceeds from this event benefit Landmarks Illinois.

Lead event sponsors of the RBIC event include: Berglund Construction; CBRE; Goettsch Partners; Golub & Co./CIM Group; Pepper Construction; Riverside Investment & Development; and Plante Moran. Additional sponsors include: Anderson Elevator; CharterSills & Associates; Clune Construction Company; Continental Painting & Decorating Inc.; Environmental Systems Design, Inc.; EverGreene Architectural Arts; HM Witt; J.P. Phillips, Inc.; Klein and Hoffman; Mark 1 Restoration; MTH Industries; OxBlue; Restoration & Preservation Enterprises, Inc.; St. Louis Antique Lighting Company; Sullivan, Goulette & Wilson Ltd.; and W.E. O’Neil Construction Company.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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