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Photographer has been a witness to century-old Union Station’s transformation

October 6, 2014

On Sunday, Oct. 4, The Kansas City Star published a beautiful photofeature in their Sunday magazine, "Indomitable: Roy Inman's photos and book chart Union Station's renovation and more." As the curator of the city landmark's visual memory, Roy has been an integral part of the station for many years. His forthcoming book -- decades of photography mixed with Roy's insightful writing -- is incredible!

We've re-published Roy's introduction, along with a digital version of the magazine you can flip through.

The Henry Wollman Bloch Memorial Fountain dedication was originally scheduled for Sept. 12, 2001, but was postponed until Sept. 25 because of 9/11. This photo was taken in October of the same year. A small group of fountain watchers wandered into the frame.

It began as a tiny, insignificant sprout in the most unlikely of places — a gable on the second floor of Union Station.

Life will find a way, and the little plant did, even during the station’s extensive renovation. Kind-hearted construction workers helped it along by giving it plant food and water. Eventually, it grew to nearly 3 feet tall.

As the grand reopening of the station drew near, the supervisor one day casually told one of the workmen to “get up there and remove it.” He refused. So did all the rest. This was a life, one that had survived against all odds, not unlike Union Station itself.

However, it would not do for a stray green sprout to be in full view on the front of a $260 million project.

The frustrated supervisor pulled one of the workers aside and quietly ordered him to remove the plant. “OK,” the man said, “but not in front of the other guys.” He would pull it under cover of darkness.

So it was that one moonless night in November 1999, just before the reopening ceremony, a courageous little plant met its fate.

That was just one of the stories I collected during my 20 years of photographing Union Station before, during and after the restoration. I shot more than 50,000 images, all on film, during the five-year restoration from 1994 to 1999.

What began as a personal opportunity to do something extraordinary with photography quickly transformed into a greater cause. I needed to share these images and recollections, especially with citizens of greater Kansas City, who helped pay for the restoration with a historic, bistate 1/8-cent sales tax.

After two decades of waxing and waning expectations, the pieces finally came together in “Kansas City’s Union Station: Reflections After 100 Years,” with funding provided by the Michael R. and Marlys Haverty Foundation and the William T. Kemper Foundation-Commerce Bank, Trustee.

Little-known facts, mostly from the book, accompany the photos in this article.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed documenting this piece of Kansas City history.

 

Kansas City’s Union Station: Reflections After 100 Years,” a 128-page book by Roy Inman, above, and Kevin Murphy, is available online at KansasCityStarBooks.com, The Station Master in Union Station, Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $27.95.

 

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