Here's an early look at the completely renovated King Street Station, which has just undergone a multi-year, $50 million remodeling.
The official Grand Opening is next week, 11 AM on Wednesday, April 24th.
King St. Station was built in the heyday of rail travel and went into service in 1906 as a terminal for the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific railroads. (Union Station, across 5th Avenue to the east, would follow five years later.) A combination of heavy use (until travel by private automobile outstripped rail), followed by decades of outright neglect turned the station into an urban wasteland.
Should mention that the station's 245-foot clocktower, right, was modeled on the Campanile, left, standing in San Marco square in Venice. San Marco's is 324 feet, same as the Daniels & Fisher tower in Denver, same as Brisbane City Hall.
A series of misguided "renovations" in the 1940s, 50s and 60s removed the building's marble walls and glass mosaic tiles, and covered the plaster ceiling with acoustical tiles. The historic light fixtures were replaced with fluorescent lights, and the elegant terrazzo floor was allowed to crack beyond repair.
Meantime, Amtrak started running clunky but increasingly popular trains along the Vancouver-Portland corridor. The bus tunnel Chinatown/International District station connected seamlessly with King St., but ticketing facilities and the waiting room remained desultory at best.
Then Paul Allen bought and renovated Union Station, and the splendors of early 20th century public buildings became apparent. Almost too late, Seattle realized what was being lost.
So, in 2008, the city of Seattle bought the station for $10 and, using funds from its Bridge-the-Gap levy, embarked on an ambitious updating. Most of the money, by the way, went for earthquake protection; another $20 million covers two new tracks that will make it easier for trains to use the station, rather than backing in and out of the mile-long rail tunnel that runs from the station to the Seattle waterfront. There's also a spiffy new plaza on Jackson that will once again become the station's logical front door.