Union Station is Washington DC’s main train station and transportation hub, visited by over 40 million people a year. Opened in 1907, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture with its 96-foot barrel-vaulted ceilings, stone inscriptions, and use of materials such as white granite, marble, and gold leaf. In the 1970s, the building was uninhabitable and in danger of demolition, which sparked the Redevelopment Act of 1981, whereby Union Station was closed for restoration and refurbishing.
In 2012, scaffolding went up again after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region in 2011. Besides replastering the coffered ceiling, a new “seismically sound” support structure was built for the ceiling and improved the heating and air conditioning systems were added.
The entire ceiling bay was also repainted and new gold leaf applied, with help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a corporate donation from the American Express Foundation.
In 2016, the Main Hall of Daniel Burnham’s Beaux Arts train station was free of all construction-related scaffolding and other obstructions for the first time in half a century and can now be viewed as the architect intended.