Union Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Thunder Bay, Ontario
View of the main entrance of Union Station, 1991. (© Heritage Research Associates, M. Carter, 1991.)
(© Heritage Research Associates, M. Carter, 1991.)
Address : 440 Syndicate Syndicate Street South, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1991-11-22
  • 1910 to 1910 (Construction)

Research Report Number: RS-074

Description of Historic Place

Union Station at Thunder Bay is a three-storey, brick-and-stone, Beaux-Arts-style railway station built in 1910. It is located in the city of Thunder Bay. The formal recognition is confined to the railway station building itself.

Heritage Value

Built as a union station by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR), the Thunder Bay station served as a passenger terminal and as administrative headquarters for the vast grain-handling facilities that were the foundation of the community. The station reflects the prosperity of the grain trade and the importance of Fort William (now Thunder Bay) as a transhipment point on the transcontinental railway lines. The construction of a union station reflects the concerns of the railway companies to reduce overhead costs and the concerns of municipal officials to consolidate services and enhance the profile of Fort William.

The Thunder Bay station is a good example of Beaux-Arts design applied to a railway station. Its use of materials of highly contrasting colours represents a departure from Beaux-Arts vocabulary.

The station retains its relationship with its wedge-shaped site, including: the tracks to the rear; an open area to the front; a large grain elevator to the east; and the viaduct to the north with remains of the original station garden beyond. Thunder Bay Union Station is considered as one of the community’s most significant heritage buildings.

Sources: Heritage Character Statement, Union Station, Thunder Bay, Ontario, April 1992; Heritage Research Associates and Great Plains Research Associates, Railway Station Report 074, Union Station, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of Union Station at Thunder Bay include: its Beaux-Arts monumentality, symmetry and classically-inspired detailing its basically symmetrical massing, consisting of a dominant, three-storey, central block, flanked by one-storey wings of differing lengths Beaux-Arts design principles, evident in: the projecting pavilions articulated by decorative stepped parapets; the tripartite elevational composition of the central block; and the hierarchy of window design its monumentality, most evident in the large, two-storey recessed and rusticated arch, flanked by strongly emphasized stonework to create a dominant, central bay the fine detailing of its front facade, including: decorative metal fenestration; an ornamental clock above the main entrance doors; finely carved stone medallions; small window columns; and stone detailing outlining the central bay its use of materials in contrasting colours to create emphasis, consisting of: red brick cladding with generous accents of light-coloured stone the exterior steel-bracketed canopies and pressed metal cornice the severely regular arrangement of window and door openings, in single, double and triple groupings surviving original mullioned, double-hung, wood windows surviving features of the original interior layout and circulation pattern, including: the ground-floor waiting room; the upper two floors of offices; and the flanking baggage/express wings surviving original interior finishes, including: the decorative plaster cornice and dado of the ground-floor waiting room