By the numbers

Numbers can speak volumes. And as the Cincinnati Museum Center takes stock of its past two years of restoration work, the numbers reinforce just how massive this project has been.


The restoration of Union Terminal — the first full renovation in its 85-year history — mobilized crews from all over the country and relied on a wide range of skills and expertise. Structural engineers, art conservators, steelworkers, and preservation architects, for example, all worked alongside one another. At the peak of renovation activity, there were some 360 workers on site each day.


On-the-job tools and equipment involved everything from massive cranes to cotton Q-tips. Not to mention the -109.3 degree Fahrenheit dry ice, which was used to clean the Rotunda’s 1,270 windows. And the 2,400 cubic feet of high-density relief foam used to shape the scalloped cement cascades of the plaza fountain.


The fountain alone is 8,000 square feet of surface area, which required 450 cubic yards of poured concrete. And the fountain’s system holds 44,000 gallons of water — enough to fill 273 plastic kiddie pools.


One key goal during restoration was to improve energy efficiency of the multi-museum facility. When you consider that Union Terminal has 500,000 square feet of interior space and was originally designed as a train station, this gives an idea of the type of structural overhaul that was needed.


There is now 478,000 pounds of new ductwork snaking through the building. And 23 new air handling units, which were installed on the rear rooftop with the help of a 450-ton crane. Electrical work, boiler systems, and plumbing have all been updated.


Other updates included extensive waterproofing, new LED lights inside the Rotunda, and red neon lighting along the hands of the Verdin-restored clock that presides over the fountain plaza. The front plaza, covering 120,000 square feet — more than two football fields — was a massive feat of demolition, structural repair, waterproofing, and reconstruction. This involved 375-degree Fahrenheit tar for waterproofing and 15,000 tons of gravel.


While behind-the-scenes structures and systems were brought into the 21st century, pretty much everything else was restored back to what it was in 1933. Union Terminal stands as a jewel of Art Deco design, a National Historic Landmark, as well as the second largest half-dome in the world. Historic preservation is of central importance, and this project reflected that in its painstaking attention to every architectural element and detail. This included cleaning, refreshing, and restoring:


  • 700 historic light fixtures
  • 1,270 windows on the Rotunda façade: removed, cleaned, and recoated
  • 1,060 doors
  • 6,476 square feet of nickel-sized glass tiles comprising the Rotunda’s mosaic murals: cleaned and repaired
  • 2,300 historic limestone and granite pieces: removed and reinstalled on fountain
  • 17,500 original bricks were salvaged and reused on building’s exterior
  • 35,000 ft. of limestone joints (a precise mixture of cement, limestone, and sand to match the original mortar)
  • 60,000 square feet of limestone on building façade
  • 53,000 terracotta wall tiles
  • 70,000 pounds of marble chips mixed with pigment and cement to cover fountain’s surface
  • a 118-seat historic theater (the Scripps Howard Newsreel Theater)


Doors re-open on November 17, inviting the public to come experience this Cincinnati treasure anew, free from decades of train station grime, deterioration, and exposure to the elements.

Support for STEAM in the Museum is provided by Cincinnati Museum Center as it educates and inspires the leaders, builders and dreamers of this generation and the next.

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Read more articles by Sarah Dupee.

Sarah Dupee is a freelance writer, teacher, translator, and musician with a background in French and Francophone Studies.