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Union Station Gets a Facelift Union Station Gets a Facelift

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Union Station Gets a Facelift

February 27, 2014

Union Station is getting some work done.

The station, which first welcomed train service in 1907, sustained major damage during the August 2011 earthquake that also battered the Washington Monument and National Cathedral. Following an immediate repair of acute problems and extensive review of the overall situation, work is underway to repair cracks and replace gold leaf in the plaster ceiling of the station's soaring Main Hall.

Due to the station's critical role as a transportation hub—approximately 100,000 people pass through daily—the work is being undertaken in stages, so as not to restrict public access to the hall. A scaffold has been built to grant workers access to the 96-foot ceiling, and will be moved among the hall's five bays as work progresses. The first bay was completed in December, and work on the second is underway. Each section takes approximately six months to complete.

The restoration work provides an opportunity to address the issues that come with age: dirt and damage accumulated since the station was last refurbished in 1988. The 22-karat, 14-gram gold leaf on the ceiling will be replaced with a more lustrous, 23-karat, 18-gram variety expected to last 75 to 100 years.

The restoration is being overseen by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, with aid from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. American Express provided $350,000 to help fund the re-gilding, which has an estimated total cost of $700,000.


The unrefurbished portion of one of Union Station's halls is seen from the scaffolding.(Chet Susslin)

The extensive cracks had to be filled, sanded, and painted, and the gold leaf will be replaced.(Chet Susslin)

Sandro Camargo works on patching the cracks in the plaster ceiling.(Chet Susslin)


Ricardo Santos sands some patched plaster in the ceiling of Union Station.(Chet Susslin)

The already refurbished potion of one of the halls is seen from the scaffolding erected to complete the work.(Chet Susslin)

Netting was installed under the portion of the ceiling not yet refurbished to catch any falling debris.(Chet Susslin)


Large cracks and holes in the plaster ceiling are seen through the netting.(Chet Susslin)

The egg and dart moulding of the plaster ceiling is reinforced by bolts and washers as well as metal wire.(Chet Susslin)

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