Union Station Gets a Facelift

Feb. 27, 2014, 11:01 a.m.

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.