Cincinnati Museum Center Union Terminal first full structural restoration

CINCINNATI – In 2017, crews worked more than 385,000 hours to restore Union Terminal. As the historic restoration enters its final year, here’s a look at the accomplishments of the past 12 months.

Union Terminal’s iconic fountain and plaza, so critical to the historic fabric of the building, was carefully surveyed and removed over a period of four months, exposing the roof deck below for repairs.

With the plaza demolition complete, crews began waterproofing the plaza’s 120,000 square feet to prevent future water penetration into the museum spaces below. As the waterproofing moves closer to completion, the fountain is again taking shape as crews have started pouring concrete.

Overlooking the fountain, 1,270 windows on the exterior face of Union Terminal’s Rotunda were removed for eight months of cleaning and repair. The metal frames were also cleaned using dry ice blasting to safely clean the historic aluminum. New window glazing ensures water will not be able to penetrate the seal between the glass and frames.

As the windows started to be reinstalled in early summer, the historic clock on the face of the building was removed for repairs. The gears and mechanisms were carefully disassembled and taken to the Verdin Company for repairs and upgrades while the hands (measuring 6 feet, 4 inches and 7 feet, 4 inches) were disassembled. The hands are being cleaned and rebuilt and will soon be balanced with the upgraded mechanism before the clock is reinstalled on the building.

With over 225,000 square feet of masonry on the building, significant time was spent addressing Union Terminal’s exterior limestone, brick and concrete and the structural steel underneath. In several locations, limestone and brick were removed along with the backup brick and terracotta tile to expose structural steel for treatment. The steel was cleaned and painted with a zinc primer and two layers of acrylic paint to prevent future oxidation by stopping water penetration.

Whereas much of the exterior masonry was selectively removed, Union Terminal’s north and south drum walls, which sit just beneath the rear of the half dome, were completely disassembled.

Outdated construction methodology had resulted in poor thermal expansion capabilities, causing the wall’s brick and steel to slowly move away from each other, damaging the wall system. The drum walls were reassembled with steel rods woven through a concrete block wall. As a final step, over 17,500 original exterior bricks were applied over top the reinforced concrete wall.

One of the major remaining masonry projects is the building’s west wall, which was built in the 1970s after the original concourse was demolished. Scaffolding is now and over the next several months crews will disassemble and rebuild the wall, which sits just outside the OMNIMAX Theater.

Inside Union Terminal, significant progress has been made on mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades. Massive 450-ton cranes lifted some of the 23 air handling units onto the building’s rear rooftops while five new boilers and three new chillers were installed to more efficiently heat and cool 500,000 square feet of Union Terminal. 478,000 pounds of new ductwork twists and turns throughout the building, connecting those heating and cooling systems to spaces around the building.

Interior historic spaces like the Losantiville Dining Room are being restored to their original look and feel. Carpet over terrazzo flooring has been removed and new terrazzo floors are being poured in its place, requiring skilled craftsmen working with materials rarely utilized in new construction projects today. The yellow, orange and silver bands of the Rotunda, towering 106 feet above the floor below, are being cleaned, patched and painted.

Scaffolding crisscrosses Winold Reiss’s iconic glass tile mosaics in the Rotunda and concourse. Art conservators completed thorough assessments on the more than 6,476 square feet of the mosaics, identifying loose or missing tiles and cracks in the painted stucco. Conservators will continue to scale the scaffolding more than 40 feet above the ground as they clean and repair the nickel-sized glass tiles and stabilize cracks in the stucco background of the historic artwork.

Though much has been accomplished in the project’s first 18 months, a great deal of work remains in the first full structural restoration in Union Terminal’s 85-year history. The restoration will be complete by November 2018.

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