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.