Union Station

Union Station

Union Station, or the 10th Street Depot, is where the sunbonneted Betty first meets Mrs. Sherman when she arrives in Louisville from the Cuckoo’s Nest for the Little Colonel’s house party.

From “The Little Colonel’s House Party,” Chapter V, “Betty Reaches the House Beautiful,” published in 1901:

There was a general uprising of the passengers. The crowd pushed toward the door, carrying the startled child with them as they surged down the aisle, and all at once --- as she stepped off the train --- she found herself in the depths of her dreaded jungle. It was so confusing she did not know which way to turn. The roar and clang of a great city smote on her ears as she stood in the big Union depot, helpless, bewildered, and as lost as a stray kitten in the midst of that noisy, pushing crowd. Sharp elbows jostled her this way and that; strange faces streamed past her by thousands, it seemed. How could anybody find anybody else in such a whirlpool of people? Hunting for a needle in a haystack seemed nothing in comparison to finding her godmother in such a crowd.

Betty stood looking around her helplessly in the middle of the overpowering din of whistles and bells and the thunder of wheels on the cobblestones outside. That moment she would have given anything she owned to be safely back on the quiet farm. The big brown eyes in the depths of the sunbonnet filled with tears, but she resolutely winked them back, whispering the python's words: "A brave heart and a courteous tongue, manling."

But she could not stop the frightened thumping in her breast, and of what use was a courteous tongue, when nobody would stop to listen? She wondered what had happened to make a whole city full of people in such a desperate hurry.

Two tears splashed down on the brown willow basket-lid, and then --- No telling what would have happened next, had not the jungle opened, without waiting for a brave heart and a courteous tongue on Betty's part. Coming toward her all in dainty gray and white was a lady she would have recognised anywhere. That face, that had been the Madonna of her both waking and sleeping, since the first night it had kept its smiling vigil above her little bed, could belong to no one but her beautiful godmother.

With a glad little cry of recognition she sprang forward, catching one slim gray-gloved hand in hers. The white sunbonnet fell back, the brown eyes looked out from a tangle of dusky curls with a world of loving admiration in their depths, and the next instant Betty was folded in Mrs. Sherman's arms.

"Joyce Allen," she exclaimed, "all over again! Joyce's own little daughter! I would have known you anywhere, dear, I think, even ---" She did not finish the sentence. Even in such an outlandish costume, was what she had started to say. She had seen Betty as the child stepped off the train' but had not given her a second glance, as it never occurred to her that the little guest she had come to meet would travel in a sunbonnet.

But Betty was blissfully unconscious of her appearance. As they crossed the city to a suburban depot, she was so interested in the mysteries of the trolley-car on which they rode, so absorbed by the great show-windows they passed, and so amazed by the city sights and sounds on every hand, that she was not conscious of the fact that she even had a head. It might have been bald for all she was concerned about the covering of it.


Union station is also where Mary Ware first arrives at her “The Promised Land” of Kentucky when she travels from the Wigwam near Camelback Mountain to The Locust for Eugenia’s wedding in “The Little Colonel, Maid of Honor,” published in 1906.

From “The Little Colonel, Maid of Honor,” Chapter IV, “Mary Ware’s Promised Land ”:

By night she was on speaking terms with nearly everybody in the car, and at last, when the long journey was done, a host of good wishes and good-byes followed her all down the aisle, as her new-made friends watched her departure, when the train slowed into the Union Depot in Louisville. She little dreamed what an apostle of good cheer she had been on her journey, or how long her eager little face and odd remarks would be remembered by her fellow passengers.

All she thought of as the train stopped was that at last she had reached her promised land.

Those of the passengers who had thrust their heads out of the windows, saw a tall. broad-shouldered young man come hurrying along toward the girls, and heard Joyce exclaim in surprise, "Why, Rob Moore! Who ever dreamed of seeing you here? I thought you were in college?"

"So I was till day before yesterday," he answered, as they shook hands like the best of old friends. "But grandfather was so ill they telegraphed for me, and I got leave of absence for the rest of the term. We were desperately alarmed about him, but 'all's well that ends well.'  He is out of danger now, and it gave me this chance of coming to meet you." 

Mary, standing at one side, watched in admiring silence the easy grace of his greeting and the masterful way in which he took possession of Joyce's suit-case and trunk checks. When he turned to her to acknowledge his introduction as respectfully as if she had been forty instead of fourteen, her admiration shot up like mercury in a thermometer. She had felt all along that she knew Rob Moore intimately, having heard so much of his past escapades from Joyce and Lloyd. It was Rob who had given Joyce the little fox terrier, Bob, which had been such a joy to the whole family. It was Rob who had shared all the interesting life at The Locusts which she had heard pictured so vividly that she had long felt that she even knew exactly how he looked. It was somewhat of a shock to find him grown up into this dignified young fellow, broad of shoulders and over six feet tall.

As he led the way out to the street and hailed a passing car, he explained why Lloyd had not come in to meet them, adding, "Your train was two hours late, so I telephoned out to Mrs. Sherman that we would have lunch in town. I'll take you around to Benedict's."

Built at a cost of $310,056, Union Station was the largest train station in the South when the first train arrived on September 7, 1891. No wonder Betty, a small-town girl from rural Kentucky, was so overwhelmed when she stepped onto the platform in Louisville!

Union Station still stands at the corner of 10th and Broadway and is now the headquarters for TARC, the Transit Authority of River City, which spent a year restoring the historic Richardsonian Romanesque building before taking up residence in 1980. The station’s first floor is open to the public weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Across the street from Union Station, at 900 W. Broadway, are the former headquarters of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N), built around 1907 and added onto in 1930. The first phase of the 11-story building was constructed when Milton Hannibal Smith was L&N president, a position he held from 1884 to 1886 and again from 1891 until his death on February 22, 1921. Considered a “representative of the people,” Smith worked his way up the ranks before assuming the presidency. He started as a local freight agent, advanced to general freight agent and then to vice president and traffic manager. Under his management, the L&N re-established itself as a transportation leader and expanded their track mileage by more than 60 percent.

The L&N Building at one time housed some 2,000 of the company’s 10,000 Louisville employees. Many Pewee Valley residents were employed by L&N in various capacities during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1984, the building was sold to the Commonwealth of Kentucky after L&N’s merger with Seaboard Railroad.


page by Donna Russell

Around 1900, Union Station was one of three large railroad stations in Louisville at the time.  The city's second station was Central Station, also known as the 7th Street Union Depot at the foot of Seventh Street by the Ohio River.  Illinois Central Railroad had it's own station on Fourth Street.  Additionally, there were interurban stations serving the nearby regional towns such as Lloydsboro (Pewee) Valley.  The line that served Pewee Valley via Lyndon and Anchorage had it's origin at Third and Liberty and its terminus in LaGrange after plans to extend the line all the way to Cincinnati never materialized.