When I attended a software convention in Indianapolis, Indiana last year, I had the opportunity to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Historic Union Station. I was unable to get hotel accommodations at the host hotel, which was completely booked for the convention, but after staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I now know that this is where I was meant to be. I had no idea that I was connected to history in such an ethereal way until I started roaming the halls of this hotel that was at that time under renovation.
Steeped in lots of history unbeknown to me, and history I probably would never have found out about if I did not stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Historic Union Station, revealed that this hotel was over part of the route of the Underground Railroad. Today we are commemorating the 101st anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death in 1913. Harriett Tubman, born Araminta Harriet Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland was born into slavery in 1820, although the actual date of her birth is unknown. This incredible woman was an African-American Abolitionist, Union spy and humanitarian who helped to rescue more than 300 slaves, bringing them to freedom. To free these slaves, Tubman used a network of safe houses and antislavery activists that became known as the Underground Railroad.
When I visit places I’ve never been to before, I try to learn from the locals about that place. As my cab driver approached the city of Indianapolis en route from the airport, I saw what I thought was a huge manufacturing plant that the cab driver quickly revealed was the Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. I was so awestruck by the building, because it was designed to remain in character of the city’s historical and industrial roots.
After checking into my hotel, I found out that the Crowne Plaza Hotel offered accommodations in the true style that George Mortimer Pullman’s first luxury train sleeper car was fashioned many years ago. I didn’t stay in one of the sleeper car rooms, but was able to watch a little of the renovations taking place. I also found out that this hotel is still an active railroad station and trains pass through on a regular schedule. Talk about ambiance and experiencing the authenticity of a living railroad station! I had no inkling that I would be in the midst of a place that held historical connections to the Underground Railroad!
The Crowne Plaza Hotel at Historic Union Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I was also in awe of the “ghost people” that you see throughout the premises. These ghosts, made of white fiberglass by Indianapolis native, Gary Rittenhouse, depicts a Pullman, newspaper boy, nuns, travelers and other representations of activity that would have been going on back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.