For three decades during the first half of the twentieth century downtown Harrisonburg was home to a stop on a busy passenger rail line. From 1911 to 1941, the B&O Railroad line (a familiar name to all you Monopoly lovers) pulled its trains into Union Station, a lovely brick depot that sat a block off the courthouse square. People would spread blankets on the hillside next to the tracks to picnic and watch the passengers arriving and departing. In the 40’s, with passenger service to the city suspended indefinitely, Wetsel Seed Co. purchased the abandoned depot and established their business in the adjoining building, where they stayed for the next half-century; during their tenure Wetsel tore down the train depot to create additional space for parking.
This is a taste of the kind of historical journey you’ll find yourself on should you visit Union Station Restaurant and Bar, which has set up shop in the old Wetsel Seed warehouse. Doors and pulleys left over from the Wetsel days adorn the interior of the restaurant, lending an industrial charm to the dining rooms. Each dining booth in the restaurant is designated to represent a building that once or still stands in Harrisonburg’s downtown; photographs and literature about each structure fill the booths, and provide an entertaining history lesson while you wait for your meal. If the history doesn’t bring back memories, it will, as the restaurant’s website says, “transport [you] to a time gone by.”
Diners will find all manner of items on the menu to satisfy their cravings. From Prime Rib Havarti Crostini to Cheese Fries, from the Cannonball Burger (featuring a battered and deep-fried beef patty) to the Caprese Panini, from Filet Mignon to Fish and Chips, you’re nearly guaranteed to find a dish to your liking.
Good food paired with a taste of local history, it’s a hard combination to beat. If you are in the mood to be transported, either in time or in flavor, check out Union Station. They’ll move you.