Located approximately one mile northwest of the city center, Union Terminal was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Originally built in 1933 as the Union Terminal train station, the building now houses an educational and cultural complex featuring the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, the Cincinnati Historical Society Museum and Library, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.
The impressive building features a 10-story, arched, limestone-and-glass facade that is approached from the east through a quarter-mile plaza. An illuminated fountain, cascade, and pool lie in the center. Flanking the doors are bas-relief figures, created by Maxfield Keck, that symbolize Commerce and Transportation. The building was renovated in the late 1980s and then reopened as the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.
The art deco style railroad terminal building, designed by New York architects Alfred Fellheimer and Steward Wagner, and aided by consultant Paul Phillipe Cret, was dedicated on March 31, 1933.
Union Terminal was first proposed in the early part of the 20th century as a solution to the chaotic existing railroad system, which comprised seven lines operating from five stations. Initial planning began in the early 1900s, but floods, inter-railroad company squabbling and World War I delayed the plan until the late 1920s.
In the mid-1980s, the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History administrators and the Cincinnati Historical Society developed plans for a joint museum project. In November 1990, Cincinnati Union Terminal reopened as Museum Center, an educational and cultural complex featuring the Museum of Natural History, the Historical Society Museum and Library, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.
On July 29, 1991, train service was officially restored to the terminal. The success of the Union Terminal renovation made it possible for Amtrak to schedule a Cincinnati stop on its Chicago-bound route from Washington, D.C.
The Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati Historical Society Library, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater merged operations in January 1995 as the Cincinnati Museum Center, and welcomed the Children's Museum of Cincinnati in July 1997. The Cinergy Children's Museum at Museum Center opened in October 1998.
The Cincinnati History Museum displays materials and related aspects of the history of Cincinnati and the surrounding region. Permanent exhibits include a re-creation of the Cincinnati Public Landing of the late 1850s, where visitors can step aboard a 94-foot side-wheel steamboat. The museum also has a large home-front exhibit on World War II and an original 1940s streetcar.
Visitors also can view a model of Cincinnati from the 1900s to 1940s with working trains and inclines, as well as interactive computer stations. Costumed interpreters throughout the museum allow visitors the unique opportunity to make a personal connection with the past.
The Cinergy Children’s Museum offers exhibits that allow kids to climb, crawl, explore, and learn about themselves and the world around them. The museum features hands-on fun for kids of all ages in eight educational and dramatic exhibit areas, including two especially designed for preschool age children and younger — Little Sprouts Farm and Kids' Town. Each year, the Children’s Museum presents more than 1,800 hours of programming for children, covering such topics as arts, culture, reading, science, and more.