26 Apr 2022

Union Station/NOMA:

Union Station graffiti repairs finished in early April

Early attempts at surface restoration, Union Station portico. February, 2022. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

As of Wednesday, April 6, Union Station fully finished repairing the cosmetic damage sustained just a few months earlier. During the early hours of January 28, 34 year-old Geraldo Pando took a permanent marker and defiled the granite exterior of the station with Swastikas . He also tagged three other buildings in the area, according to The Hill.

One of the restorers from John Canning, carefully matching stone color and applying the special paint with different tools, March 2022. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

Many on Twitter, like this video from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, shared footage of the damage right away, as the covered pillars along the portico are a route for many Hill Metro commuters.

The restoration process proved tricky, as granite does not take well to pressure-washing–– an activity that happens with regularity at the station, to keep things like human and animal waste off the common areas. Also, common solvents leave a larger, albeit faded, stain that only magnifies the shapes left behind. I reached out to Jillian Hess, Public Relations and Outreach Manager at Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) and she offered the following explanation:

John Canning & Co. (Canning) was already on-site for the Main Hall Granite Masonry Project and was asked to provide consultation from the outset. In addition, USRC contacted the National Park Service (NPS) as they have specialized knowledge on how to deal with graffiti on historic monuments. NPS surveyed the damage, undertook tests, and gave direction on how to treat it. NPS provided their methodology and a list of products to use.

Then, USRC decided to contract with Canning to complete a survey and clean and remove the graffiti… They are using mortar and a layer of potassium silicate paint to match the surrounding masonry. They are also using a brush to spackle mica flakes on the inpainted sections of the most damaged areas.

A John Canning restorer, matching the granite color along the portico, March 2022 (MHC)

It was fascinating to watch workers painstakingly apply paint that, as one of the John Canning experts explained, actually matches the surrounding surface. According to one of the Canning experts I spoke to while they worked, the silicate-based paint strengthens and fills the surface, but it needs to be painstakingly matched stone by stone. Since there were parts of the granite that were damaged by earlier attempts to remove the permanent marker and the spray paint, the masonry was a little weakened in certain areas.

We’re happy Union Station is looking refreshed and hate-symbol free.

Part of the portico at Union Station bearing signs of care. (MHC)

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