The History Behind Union Station

In October 2017, we announced that we're moving the Jenny Dawn Cellars winery into Union Station this coming Spring. Lately, we’ve been hard at work finalizing a layout that aligns with our vision for the urban winery within this beautiful and historic building.

A Rich, Storied Past

In the early 20th century, Wichita underwent a population boom. The roads became a chaotic mess of horse-drawn vehicles and early automobile owners all sharing roadways that were designed for a fraction of the population. Plus, without rules in place to limit how long a train could rest on a track, streets that intersected railways like Douglas Avenue quickly became cluttered with commuters waiting on halted trains. One townsperson described rush hour in Wichita as a “sight for the gods and a menace to men.”

Union Station was designed by Kansas City architect Louis Curitss in 1911 to address this problem and to accommodate Wichita’s growing number of train passengers. It was a simple solution: raise the railroad tracks above Douglas, First, and Second streets to allow the road traffic to pass underneath, and create an enormous, majestic stone train station to replace the small and outdated one.

The Wichita Business Association posted signs throughout the construction area informing townspeople of the importance of the new project. One large, iron-framed electric sign that stretched 80 feet across Douglas Avenue was placed by the Eaton Hotel in hopes to soothe commuters’ frustration with the resulting traffic. It illuminated the words, “Watch Wichita Win.”

Union Station opened to the public on March 7th, 1914 after 18 months of construction. The elegance of the white terra cotta walls, circular driveway, elevated tracks, gray Bedford stone and metal-framed glass quickly made it a Wichita landmark that was symbolic of Wichitans’ city pride. One million tickets were sold in 1920 alone.

However, the completed elevated tracks came with one unpopular (and adorable) stipulation: only passengers were allowed to walk onto the boarding platform. This meant that departing husbands wouldn’t be able to kiss their wives goodbye as they boarded the train. Some wives would ride the train with their husband to nearby stations in Derby or Kechi, kiss them goodbye, and take another train back to Wichita just to honor this tradition.

Arriving at the Station

Today, Union Station is a historical snapshot of a young, bustling Wichita and the infancy of modern America. This historic building has a lot to offer and it quickly caught the interest of Jennifer McDonald, CEO of Jenny Dawn Cellars.

“After spending about a year researching and touring real estate properties to lease, it became clear to me that Union Station was the perfect site for our Jenny Dawn Cellars urban winery," said McDonald, pictured above with assistant winemaker Lesley Selvidge.

Union Station comfortably sits along the Q Line route and closely neighbors many downtown offices and restaurants. Plus, it’s just a brief walk to popular downtown favorites like Intrust Bank Arena, Old Town and the Pop-Up Park. Jenny Dawn Cellars will be at the city’s epicenter of economic development and centrally-located – easily accessible to east and west-siders alike.

We are thrilled to be contributing to the celebration of culture, food, and entertainment in downtown Wichita – and someday, hopefully beyond.

"Jenny Dawn Cellars at Union Station just sounds catchy! We see our winery business having the potential of expanding to other Union Station sites across the United States,” said McDonald.

103 years after its grand opening, we believe that Union Station will be the perfect location to “Watch Wichita Win” in 2019.

Jenny Dawn Cellars – Let your moment begin.

We’ve bottled the art of timing.

From the vine to the bottle. We craft our wine from grapes, fruit, and juice sourced from the finest growers in the nation. From the bottle to the glass.

That’s where you come in. When you open a bottle of Jenny Dawn Cellars wine, you open your moment, your reprieve from the business of busy-ness, and your time to bloom.

Jenny Dawn Cellars is inspired by the wildflowers on the Kansas countryside, inviting you to open up, enjoy the breeze, and show your colors to the world. Just like a flower, when Jenny Dawn Cellars wine is shared with someone special, it needs no further explanation – it’s a feeling that is simply understood.

Jenny Dawn Cellars – Let your moment begin.

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(All Union Station-related information/quotes in this piece was acquired from “The Daylight Station of America” by Craig Miner, copyright Multimedia Cablevision, 1984. Photos by Sean Sandefur/KMUW, Wichita State University Library Archives,The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum and Occidential Management, Inc.)

Special thanks to Rylee Dulaney for this article.

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