terminally harrisonburg no. 11: union station.

Katie and Jen

You know how it is when winter starts to lift. You’ve finally taken down the Christmas decorations, just in time for St. Patty’s day; daylight streams into your house at a different slant and intensity; your kids have been bickering for weeks, having been cooped up with each other since October; and you’re going crazy. That’s how it was a couple of weeks ago for Brandy, Jen, Danielle, and me. When I drove away from the sitter’s house on that chilly but bright afternoon, I breathed a sigh of relief that stretched across the entire city. An evening with the girls–finally! Even if only til 7pm. Even better, it happened to be Harrisonburg’s Taste of Downtown week. This glorious event in Harrisonburg provides an opportunity to try local cuisine–lunch and/or dinner–for seven days in a row and snag some really good deals. Right now, while you’re thinking about it and before you read any further, mark your calendar for August 12 – 18–the next Taste of Downtown week.

We decided on Union Station. They were offering a specialty burger (a different one each night of the week) served on a frisbee plus four 4-ounce draft beers, all for $12.    $12!!!   (They offer this special every Monday, by the way, but I can’t guarantee which burger they’ll feature.) The specialty burger this night had Girls’ Night Out written all over it: a patty topped with spinach, feta, and tomato. And we got to choose which four beers we sampled. That evening they offered Stella Artois, Dogfish IPA, Hoegaarden, Weeping Radish, Jefferson Reserve, Brooklyn Lager, and Legend Lager.
The beers were served on cute wooden paddles, which took me back to my elementary school days. Ah, public school in South Carolina. My second grade teacher–yes, YOU, Mrs. Ross–paddled me one day for sharpening my pencil without asking permission. In my defense, it was my FIRST DAY of school in South Carolina, having recently moved from New Jersey, and I didn’t know the pencil sharpening policies. Nor had I ever seen a paddle in my life. You can imagine my surprise when she came up behind me and hit me with that thing–I scraped my forehead on the pencil sharpener, screamed “STOP KILLING ME!” and ran like some kind of wild animal up and down the hall, just trying to get OUT OF THAT CRAZY PLACE. My dad had to pick me up early… it was a mess. Years later, Mrs. Ross moved into my neighborhood. I bet there’s STILL toilet paper hanging from her trees. Nevertheless, I went back to school the day after that fiasco, and here I am today. Ta-da! Anyway, that memory faded as the beer glasses emptied and our conversation turned to other topics. Girl topics. Like that show The Biggest Loser. How much Jillian Michaels scares us, how no one liked that one blonde trainer (Kim Lyons), and how Bob is just awesome.
At this point my memory gets blurry and my notes sparse… apparently I said a few embarrassing things you won’t read here. That’s the advantage of being the writer, see? When I say something stupid, it doesn’t get recorded. I vaguely remember Brandy saying something like, “I wish I was writin’ this crap!” Sorry. Heh heh! But when I got home, I found spinach in my teeth. Ah, karma.

Then “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac came on, and I thought of my dad, and then there were some tears. And Jen nearly broke her glass. Finally Cassie Baker–owner of Union Station–came over and organized our conversation.

Katie, Danielle, Jen, and Cassie
(Brandy's behind the lens)

When Cassie bought the property, she spent some time researching its history and wanted to do all she could to preserve that history for her clientele. She certainly succeeded there. Not only is the building beautifully renovated with many architectural details of the 1930s and 40s, but the servers at the restaurant provide brief lessons about certain historical landmarks around the city. Union Station was the name of a train depot built by B&O in 1911. It was actually located where the jail now stands. The Wetsel Seed Company purchased the property in 1944 and retained ownership of it until eminent domain rendered it city property in 1991. If you’ve not been there, it’s truly a beautiful restaurant, with a large dining area, an ample bar, a cute backroom, and a new banquet room that can seat 65.

dining room

We couldn’t leave without asking about the big math error in that back room.

1991 - 1911 does not = 89.

Cassie told us it was just a joke left by the painters, long ago.

It was nearing seven o’clock and we all had to get back to our real lives. We were so silly that evening we knew we had tons of ridiculous photos to share with you all. That reminded us of the photo of Brandy and me at Beyond in which Brandy thinks she looks like a man (puh-lease!), and I feel I have too much flesh between my sternum and my chin. What is it with my excessive neck-y-ness?? Ugh! Jen sternly told me, “Oh, Katie, that’s just your throat!” Well, that doesn’t make it any better, friend. So, thanks for reading and not looking (click here and scroll all the way down). And for the rest of this week, we’ll feature more photos we wish didn’t exist.

Union Station is located on the corner of Liberty and Market Street (Rt. 33) in downtown Harrisonburg. See you there soon!

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