OMAHA, NE. May 24, 2017 – One of Omaha’s historical treasures has joined an elite list. The Durham Museum was recently designated as a National Historic Landmark. The National Park Service, which oversees the landmarks program, identified the museum as “one of the most distinctive and complete examples” of art deco architecture in the country.
The museum is Omaha’s former Union Station, a once bustling train depot built by Union Pacific in the late 1920s. It was one of the first art deco-style railroad stations ever built in the country. Gilbert Stanley Underwood, a Los Angeles architect known for his classic art-deco style, designed the building.
“While there are more than 90,000 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, The Durham Museum joins an elite list of 2,500 National Historic Landmarks,” said Keith Backsen, executive director for Visit Omaha.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic properties worthy of preservation. National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that have been determined by the Secretary of the Interior to be nationally significant in American history and culture.
The Durham building is a steel frame structure covered with cream-colored glazed terra cotta. The main hall features a ceiling of sculptured plaster, with painted gold and silver leaf trim, ten cathedral-like plate glass windows, a patterned terrazzo floor, and columnettes of blue Belgian marble. Six immense chandeliers, 13 feet tall and five feet in diameter, are suspended from the ceiling. Building the 124,000-square-foot station began in July 1929. It took 17 months to complete at a cost of $3.5 million. The original station had thirteen sets of tracks located to the south of the building. At its peak, 64 passenger trains and nearly 10,000 passengers utilized the facility every day.
Other National Historic Landmarks in Omaha include Boys Town, a campus for at risk youth that includes the three-acre Garden of the Bible the original home of Father Flanagan built in 1927, and The Herbert B. Chambers Protestant Chapel. The USS Hazard, a ship used during World War II and the only Admiral Class Minesweeper left in the world is also a National Historic Landmark in Omaha.
Visit Omaha, also known as the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau, is the official tourism authority for the City of Omaha.