A new 11,500-pound replica of an original capital stone has been created and installed in the waiting room façade of Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.
The replica is part of Ford’s efforts to restore the building to its original grandeur as it turns the station into the centerpiece of its soon-to-be mobility innovation district.
John Goodrow Sr. of Capital Stoneworks Inc. in Bridgeport, Mich. spent 428 hours carving the stone from a 21,000-pound limestone block. He started the project Sept. 1 and completed it in late October.
“It’s a lot of visualization,” says Goodrow, who has carved nearly 1,000 capital stones in his 37-year career. “I start with a solid square block and work from the outside in. You have to see the finished product done in your mind to be able to do it. You can either do it or you can’t.”
Capital stones are the decorative pieces at the top of a structural column. They are typically seen in residential designs and are less common in commercial projects. The stones, on the exterior of the building, are a key architectural feature of the Beaux-Arts style train station, specifically its waiting area, which faces north onto Michigan Avenue.
Nearly all of the details of the new stone were created using air-powered chisels, while pneumatic handsaws were used to remove excess limestone stock.
“I’ve done bigger pieces of stone carvings, but this is by far the largest capital I’ve ever done,” Goodrow says. “It was a lot of work.”
Capital Stoneworks recently restored medallions for the Michigan State Capitol Building in Lansing out of carved sandstone, among more than 100 carved objects it created over the course of two years for the project.
The limestone for Michigan Central Station was sourced from the Indiana quarry that was used to build the original piece more than 100 years ago. Dark Hollow Quarry, now closed, provided the raw stone material that was used for the original capital stones that were used in the station when it opened in 1913.
The new stone was installed atop the columns of the train station earlier this month. Other famous structures that used Indiana limestone include the Empire State Building, the National Cathedral, and the Pentagon.
The original capital stone that was brought to Capital Stoneworks to reproduce was missing prominent portions and features that had fallen off and decayed over the years. The company had planned to use 3-D scanning to measure and rebuild the stone, but the details had to be worked out by visualization and sketching, and the stone ended up being completely hand-carved.
The company will now use the newly completed piece as a 3-D template for three more capital stones for the train station; 10 original capital stones are intact and will be cleaned and repaired. They will be created using a mix of CNC machining and hand carving.
“We’re really starting to turn the corner on this historic project,” says Gary Marshall, project manager for Ford. “The outside of the building is really starting to look like it did back in the train station’s heyday.”
The station was purchased in 2018. Two years into the restoration, crews are putting the finishing touches on the eastern portion of the waiting room façade before moving to the west end. The renovation of the station is expected to be complete in late 2022.