Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, New York City-based EverGreene Architectural Arts, one of the largest specialty contractors in the US, has engaged to revitalize major areas of Michigan Central Station, including the main waiting area, arcade, ticket lobby and restaurant. The company specializes in the restoration of historic buildings.
As part of the project, EverGreene will replicate and restore approximately 56,000 square feet of decorative plasterwork, which is a distinctive feature of the station’s Beaux Arts architecture. It occupies most of the first floor of the building and is made to look like stone, a cost-saving measure at the time of construction.
In addition, EverGreene preserves and cleans the original plaster material that can be stored and makes new portions where necessary.
The 18-month project will use three plaster techniques, including traditional three-layer, ornamental and veneer plaster, and will also require more than 3,000 cast plaster pieces to be replicated, including the coffers, medallions and rosettes that adorn the waiting room walls and ceilings. . The work is choreographed in a way that creates a seamless transition from old and new in the areas most visible to visitors.
“The original architects used every plaster craft available to them to create the station’s impressive public spaces,” said Austin Giesey, project manager for Chistman-Brinker, the construction team that led the restoration project. “People don’t realize how much detail has been lost in the last 30 years. When we’re done with these spaces, they’ll look phenomenal. You walk in and see a large expanse of stony plaster that looks exactly like the original concept. Giesey also says the finished effect will be “chewing”.
Decorative plaster is much less common in new buildings than it was in the early 20th century. The skilled tradesmen of Michigan Central Station will be able to preserve and recreate the look of faux stone just as the original architects intended. While digital tools will be used, a team of 15 to 20 craftsmen from EverGreene will do most of the plastering by hand using floor-to-ceiling scaffolding.
EverGreen has been part of Detroit’s comeback for over two decades. It has contributed to projects in Orchestra Hall, Detroit Public Library, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Fisher Building. The company has also performed plaster and decorative painting work on the Michigan State Capital building. The company has worked on restoration projects for Grand Central Station in New York City and Union Station in Los Angeles, as well as depots in Seattle, Cincinnati and Sacramento.
“It’s incredible to play even a small part in the transformation of this iconic building,” said Jeff Greene, EverGreene executive chairman and founder. “There is a lot of satisfaction, not only in the profession and what we do with our hands, but also in elegantly preserving something that means so much to this city. A project of this magnitude will reverberate on the national stage.”
Greene noted that buildings such as Michigan Central Station contribute to the collective source of memory of the city and create a sense of place. “If we bring these buildings back to life, they can have a huge impact on the neighborhood and community,” says Greene. “People identify with a physical environment; it is a repository of memories. Michigan Central Station was and remains a central place in what shapes Detroit’s personality.”
EverGreene will try to preserve and reuse as much of the original construction material as possible. The original plasterwork was created to simulate the stone found throughout the building, some of which are still present despite decades of weathering. The remains are used as a template for the new plaster.
After Ford purchased Michigan Central Station in 2018, it began its long-standing conservation project. The plastering is taking place simultaneously with extensive repairs to Guastavino’s vaulted ceiling in the waiting room. The ceiling features 22,000 square feet of clay tiles covering three self-supporting arches. The next phase of the interior restoration involves installing new plumbing, flooring, plumbing and electrical to the building and finishing structural repairs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Michigan Central Station will be the centerpiece of Ford’s new 30-acre Mobility Innovation District, which will help shape how people and goods move in the future. The station will be open to the public with locally inspired restaurants, shops, hospitality and public facilities, as well as modern office spaces for Ford employees and the company’s innovation partners.
EverGreene Architectural Arts was founded in 1978. It has provided conservation and restoration services for hundreds of projects across the United States, including numerous buildings registered with the National Historic Landmarks.