Michigan Central Station is on its way to completion. It’s latest advancement: a new 11,500-pound replica of an original capital stone that has been created and installed in the Waiting Room façade of Detroit’s historic Michigan Central Station after more than 400 hours of work by a mid-Michigan stoneworker. Ford Motor Company is restoring the building to its original grandeur as the centerpiece of a new mobility innovation district in Corktown.
We spoke with Rich Bardelli, Manager of Program Planning and Estimating at Ford Motor Company, who shared insight on the project “one of the big iconic pieces are the columns that face that front of the building and on top of those are these capitals that are actually a few tons in weight,” he says. “The limestone for the capital stone was sourced from the same Indiana quarry that was used to build the original piece more than 100 years ago.”
Capital stones, the decorative pieces at the top of a structural column, are typically seen in residential home designs and are less common in commercial projects. The stones are a key architectural feature of the Beaux-Arts style train station that welcomed visitors to what was the grand waiting area of the building, which faces north onto Michigan Avenue. Bardelli noted the uniqueness of the limestone, sharing there are stripes that make their way through, called Dark Hallow rift, which was an important characteristic for the structures because there were original fears that unique lines would be hard to match. Though, finding it was great because Ford was able to patch the pieces and allow Capital Stoneworks to hand carve the material.
Ford Motor Company then selected John Goodrow Sr., of Capital Stoneworks Inc., located in Bridgeport, Michigan. For the creation, Goodrow spent 428 hours carving the capital stone from a 21,000-pound limestone block – a process that began on September 1 and was only completed in late-October. Nearly all of the details were created using air-powered chisels, while pneumatic handsaws were used to remove excess limestone stock.
The capital was brought to Capital Stone Works and was missing prominent portions and features, these having fallen off and decayed over the years. The company had planned to use 3D scanning to measure and rebuild the stone, but it turned out those details had to be worked out manually by visualization and sketching and in the end, the stone was completely hand-carved.
The new version, an exact replica of the stone made over 100 years ago, was installed atop one of the columns of Michigan Central Station earlier this month. Capital Stoneworks Inc. will now use the completed piece as a 3D template for three additional capitals for the train station which will be created using a mix of CNC machining and hand-carving. Ten original capital stones remain intact on the building and will be cleaned and any missing parts replaced.
On the docket for future projects at Michigan Central Station is the focus of intricate plasterwork in the interior main area, the ceiling in the main waiting room which will take another year to restore, and the tower restoration which will take a couple more years to complete, tells Bardelli. “We are focusing on the mechanical and electrical systems which are one of the biggest parts of the job, because the building was never air-conditioned. That design is all done and we’re purchasing all of our mechanical, electrical components to get that work started too.”
The renovation of that part of Michigan Central Station is expected to be completed in 2022. Subscribe to our newsletter for future updates on Michigan Central Station!