The delicate and deliberate phase one of bringing Union Station back to life began in 1997 with an enormous cleaning of both inside and out. In total, over 10 million pounds of debris was removed. What was left was a broken and empty shell begging for attention. Even then, however, the living heartbeat of history could be faintly heard.
As the second phase of work began – restoring and replacing -- the goal was to return as much original glory to the Station as possible . . . to have her shine proudly just as she would have in 1914. Touching every foot, top to bottom, inside and out, no detail was overlooked, including scientifically matching colors, styles and textures.
Oehrlein & Associates
Having worked on historical landmarks like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Theater, Oehrlein was brought in to take on the difficult task of determining those exact colors of the original Union Station. Their experts examined everything from metals, to plaster, to the walls, floors, ceilings, and roof tiles. The procedure included scraping away layers of filth one by one along with every coat of paint in order to get down to an exact original match in color.
In order to ensure another 100 years of impressive presence in our city, the Station roof was then completely replaced with tiles of the exact shape and color of the originals. The only, but essential difference . . . the use of a special concrete weighing far less than was available over one century ago.
St. Louis Antique Lighting Co.
Recognized for the restoration of lights and fixtures in seven historic State Capitals, St. Louis Antique Lighting Co. provided 12 full-time experts to strip and restore all of Union Station's sconces and giant chandeliers. Each chandelier weighs 3,500 pounds, measures 12 feet in diameter, and requires more than half a mile in wiring and 11,400 watts of electricity. Slowly and carefully, the inviting glow of our Station began to push away the darkness of neglect.
Hayles & Howe
Simultaneously, Hayles & Howe -- ornamental plasterers specializing in restoration of original moldings and ceilings -- was called upon to rebuild the heavily damaged ceiling of Union Station. Employing 22 craftsmen, more than half the original ceiling had to be removed because of massive amounts of water damage. Then, focusing on every detail, crews reconstructed the damaged areas and recreated those priceless moments of wonder when guests first look up in awe at our masterpiece overhead. (To provide perspective regarding the care and quality of reconstruction talent employed throughout Union Station, Hayles & Howe – prior to restoring Union Station -- helped restore New York's Grand Central Station and participated in the refurbishment of England's Windsor Castle. That’s pretty impressive company to keep!)
The final result . . . well just look around. A truly unique and impressive building – even in what had been a terrible state of neglect – had risen from massive deposit of debris to once again become the most cherished landmark and monument in our region. The awards won, praise given and memories stirred as a result of this grand rebirth are second only to the boundless possibilities and optimism for Union Station’s future.