While Warner Bros.’s Justice League sits in theaters across the globe, the inspiration for the DC super-team iconic Hall of Justice headquarters is in the midst of $224 million restoration project. Cincinnati’s Union Terminal inspired the design of the Justice League’s Hall of Justice almost 50 years ago in Super Friends, and is now home to the Cincinnati Museum Center. Pending completion of the renovation, Union Terminal is scheduled to re-open in November 2018 – and keep its classic Art Deco design.
“The building will retain its iconic look,” assured Cody Hefner, Manager of Media Relations at Cincinnati Museum Center (inside Union Terminal). “It’s consistently recognized as one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture and was one of the last grand train stations built in America. And, it’s façade was grand enough to inspire the headquarters of some of the most iconic superheroes, so; if it looked good enough for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, it looks good enough for us.”
The $224m restoration project is addressing years of water damage, along with an updating of the building’s structure as well as the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical infrastructure. After being listed as one of America’s 11 most endangered places by the National Trust for Historical Preservation, politicians and voters came forward with a voter-approved tax to fund the repairs. Before it closed earlier this year, the Union Terminal was visited by 1.4 million people annually.
“More directly, the current restoration is the first full structural restoration in the building’s 84-year history,” explained the Cincinnati Museum Center representative. “Union Terminal is a National Historic Landmark and a local icon. It was the gateway to the city and approximately one out of every five American soldiers who served in World War II passed beneath its grand Rotunda. The building has served as the setting and backdrop for millions of memories across generations and the restoration is about preserving those memories and ensuring future generations can make their own memories around Union Terminal’s fountain or under its half dome.”
Cincinnati’s Union Terminal first inspired the Justice League’s headquarters in the 1970s animated series Super Friends. The series was produced by Hanna-Barbera, who at the time was owned by a Cincinnati-based company named Taft Broadcasting. It has since appeared in subsequent animated projects, as well as comic books and even the DC-CW shows. When asked about any actual talks between Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., or DC for permission to homage the building, Hefner reveals they haven’t – and for an overlooked reason.
“No,” said Hefner. “Union Terminal is currently a public building so its likeness is often used without asking permission. There have not been any official talks about using Union Terminal as a setting. It did appear in an episode of The Flash in 2016, using a public domain photo of the building that they slightly doctored. Union Terminal is currently a public building so its likeness is often used without asking permission.”
With the Justice League being top of mind given the new film, the current animated series, and of course the comic books, the next obvious question is if there were any related events planned for the facility – restoration or not.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have any events planned currently,” said Hefner. “During the current restoration, portions of the building have limited access and the façade view is obstructed as exterior repairs are made to the masonry, structural steel, historic windows, the iconic fountain and plaza area, and much more.”
Although nothing on the schedule now, the Union Terminal has hosted comic-related events in the past.
“Recently, though we presented a Heroes & Villains event as part of our CurioCity series,” said Hefner. “The event clearly played on our inspiration as the Hall of Justice and explored the science behind super powers: the physics behind flight (Superman), invisible ink (Wonder Woman’s jet), etc. In the past, we also worked with film companies to promote Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with scavenger hunts inside the building.
Once Union Terminal’s restoration is complete in late 2018 however, the building’s operators have an open invitation out to any Justice League members (or their Super Friends) to arrange an appearance.
“We embrace our comic fandom and are a popular destination for cosplayers, especially during Cincinnati Comic Expo. We’d love to host the cast or creators of the Justice League, The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl or any of the other Justice League friends,” Hefner said. “As we mentioned before, Union Terminal means so much to so many people. For some, it’s where they welcomed their husband home from war, where they took their first train trip across the country with their grandfather when they were a child, or a couple’s first date. For others, it’s the Hall of Justice, a legend in comic book lore.”
Cincinnati’s Union Terminal is expected to re-open in November 2018.