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  • Cincinnati Museum Center at Union TerminalCincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal Cincinnati, Ohio
    The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, which had been the Cincinnati Union Terminal railroad station, in Cincinnati, Ohio, was like many of the old rail stations that went through a big decline, is now housing other venues like theaters, museums and library. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city was a main hub of traffic on the railroads, more importantly as an interchange point between the northeast and Midwest states that were serving the south. It was difficult for many of the travelers, since there were five stations in the downtown Cincinnati area, and intercity travel was tough. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, with its sleepers, had to split its operations between two stations, and one would be a union station in Cincinnati, beginning in the 1890s. The early proposals to construct this station finally was able to seat a committee in 1912, but it wasn't until 1928, after difficult negotiations and intense lobbying. There were 7 railroads that would be using the station; the Southern, the Baltimore and Ohio, the Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake and Ohio, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, the Louisville and Nashville and the Norfolk and Western. The main architects were Steward Wagner and Alfred T. Fellheimer, and design consultants, Roland Wank and Paul Phillippe Cret. Cret has often been the architect most credited with the design, since he designed the signature Art Deco styling, with a rotunda containing the biggest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, that measures a staggering 180 feet and 106 feet high. Winold Reiss, a German artist was brought in to create two 22 foot tall by 110 foot long color mosaic murals that would depict the history of the city for the rotunda, two more murals for the baggage lobby, two more for the arriving and departing trains, 14 smaller murals for the concourse that would represent local industries and a huge world map mural at the end of the concourse. During other renovations, the majority of these murals were taken away and put on display at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Those industries that were depicted included; piano making by Baldwin Piano Company, meat packing by Kahn's Meat Packing, radio broadcasting with Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, laundry-machinery manufacture with American Laundry Machine, roof manufacture with Philip Carey Co., machine tools manufacture with Cincinnati Milling Machine, tanning with American Oak Leather Co., soap making with the Proctor and Gamble Co., airplane and parts manufacture with Aeronca Aircraft Company, sheet steel making with American Rolling Mills and Newport Rolling Mill, ink making with Ault & Weiborg Corp., foundry products operations with Cincinnati Milling Machine, drug and chemical processing with William S. Merrill Co. and printing and publishing with U.S. Playing Card Co. and Champion Paper Company. To build the terminal, the Union Terminal Company was created, as well as construct the lines in and out and other related improvements. In 1928, they started, with the regrading needing a huge 5.5 million cubic yards of fill. The terminal building was started in 1931, and it was finished early, so that in 1933, trains were coming into the station. During its busiest time, the station was greeting 108 trains each day and sending them out the same day. They built three lanes for traffic outside the building, one for cabs, one for buses, and one for trolleys, but it was never used. It was unfortunate that while the terminal was being built, the train business was on its decline, and thus by 1939, the station was called a white elephant by the local newspapers; but WWII gave it a boost in the arm, but then the 1950s and 1960s continued the decline and sadly, in 1958, the station waved goodbye to its final train; the Norfolk and Western #603. After Amtrak was started, in 1971, the terminal had only two trains coming through each day; the James Whitcomb Riley and the George Washington, but Amtrak abandoned it in 1972 and opened one in a smaller station in another part of Cincinnati.

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  • National Underground Railroad Freedom CenterNational Underground Railroad Freedom Center Cincinnati, Ohio
    The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is the museum located in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio that contains materials and artifacts based on the history of the underground railroad. It pays recognition to all those that struggled to abolish human enslavement and gain freedom for all people. It is referred to as one of the new type of museums of conscience, like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Museum of Tolerance and the National Civil Rights Museum, with the center giving lessons about the struggle that went on for freedom in the past, present and future. The locale gives tribute to the important role that the city played in the railroad, where thousands of slaves were able to escape to freedom by crossing the Ohio River. Taking ten years of planning and fundraising, at a cost of $110 million, the center finally opened in 2004 with 158,000 square feet of space included in three pavilions that honor cooperation, perseverance and courage. The building is a marvel, with rough travertine stone from Tivoli, Italy on the west and east faces and copper panels on the south and north. One of the main architects, the late Walter Blackburn, said the building's undulating quality shows the river and fields that the escaping slaves would have to go across to gain their freedom. On its groundbreaking ceremony on June 17, 2002, First Lady Laura Bush, Muhammed Ali and Oprah Winfrey were there to give their support. The main artifact of the center is a 21 by 30 foot, two story log slave pen that was built in 1830, to hold slaves on their way to auction. It was taken from a farm in Mason County, Kentucky, and today is the major sight on the second floor atrium, allowing visitors the chance to enter it while looking at other wonderful exhibits. The pen had been the property of Captain John Anderson, a Revolutionary War soldier, who put the slaves in the pen as they waited for transportation to the markets in Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving from Dover, Kentucky and being there either days or months depending on the best market conditions that would benefit the owners. The structure has 8 small windows, the original stone floor that was made from the huge chimney and fireplace, and a row of iron rings that would tether slaves to one side or the other of the chain. The males would be located on the second floor and women on the first, with the fireplace used for cooking meals. Senior adviser and curator, Carl B. Westmoreland has stated that the pen has a special feeling of being hallowed ground and when people are standing inside, they converse in whispers, because of this feeling. Some believe that the pen is here to tell a story, much the way a picture can, instead of using a thousand words. Westmoreland has spent three and a half years trying to discover all he could about the pen, which is just a pile of logs, but to those that come here and go inside, it is transformed before their very eyes and senses. It is full of many wonders that these poor people had to endure during their lives and is a good reminder of where we were and how far we have come. It is also a display about the terrible things that we have done to each other, and many such people still do to others today.

January 11, 2011