Limestone blocks being used to replace the deteriorating stone façade of Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood will be sourced from the same Indiana quarry that provided the limestone during the station’s original construction.
The second phase of the station’s transformation is underway. The announcement was made today.
The phase focuses on cleaning, repairing, and replacing eight acres of masonry on the exterior of the building. Scaffolding wraps around the west half of the 15-story tower. Cranes and workers will soon disassemble stone from around the waiting room entrance, which faces north toward Michigan Avenue. This will allow craftsmen to fix the limestone façade and recreate missing and deteriorated ornate pieces.
The station opened in 1913, and using limestone from the same quarry is part of Ford’s efforts to retain the station’s historical integrity. Some of the early blocks of limestone are still in a field a few feet away from where they were first mined more than 100 years ago.
The Dark Hollow Quarry where the unique patterned limestone is found was closed in 1988. Its pattern fell out of favor with building projects in the 1920s. The remaining blocks are now in a forest of 30-year-old trees. Local trades will construct a new haul road to access the stones and remove trees to access the material.
“It’s super exciting to use stone that was originally intended for the building,” says Richard Bardelli, construction manager for the restoration project, who recently visited the Indiana quarry. “To come back to the same quarry where the first limestone was sourced from allows us not only an exact match in color and texture, but to maintain a strong connection to its storied past.”
In the early 1900s, the limestone was quarried by hand with men using chisels and hammers. Blocks of stone were transported by train to customers, where it was carved on-site. Today, the limestone is extracted and cut by machines, and blocks are moved by truck to regional fabricators and then shipped in their final shapes to the job site.
One Clear Creek Stone Co. employee mining the limestone from the quarry, Jim Hillenburg, is the third generation of his family to do so. His grandfather helped quarry the original Dark Hollow limestone used in the construction of Michigan Central Station. His father also worked at the quarry.
“It means a whole lot that all three of us have been in the limestone business,” says Hillenburg, who earlier this year found the matching stone with the same grain formations as the original limestone used at the Detroit landmark. “I’m proud that my grandfather and I both played a role in building Michigan Central Station. I’m picking up where he left off.
“I enjoy my job and I’ve made a real good living.”
Hillenburg says he tried to get his son to follow the same career path and is a pipe layer.
Before the stone is moved, it will be measured and examined for the same pattern as the existing stone. Some might have to be extracted from the ground. The last time stone from the woods was used for another restoration project was eight years ago.
Beginning this winter, an estimated 8,000 cubic feet of the stone, about 300 blocks, will be shipped from the quarry in southern Indiana to Capital Stoneworks in Bridgeport, Mich., southeast of Saginaw. The company will take the raw stone and fabricate the replacement pieces needed for the train station.
The new stone will arrive in Detroit for installation in the spring of 2020.
Other buildings that use the Indiana limestone in their construction include the Empire State Building, the National Cathedral, the new Yankee Stadium, the Pentagon, and many state capitol buildings across the country.
Ford began the three-phase restoration project last year and plans to make the station the centerpiece of its future-mobility and automation campus.