This article appeared in Western Roofing January/February 2017

A Lasting Legacy
Precision Reroof for Historic Train Station in Los Angeles, California
by Marc Dodson, editor

Located at 800 North Alameda Street in Los Angeles, California, sits the majestic and beautiful Los Angeles Union Station terminal building. Constructed in the 1930s and opened in 1939, the commuter station serves as an important hub for Southern California, and is privy to nearly 110,000 passengers each day. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, Union Station has seen a rich history in Los Angeles that includes the rise of Hollywood, the onset of World War II, and the high-speed transformation of mass transit.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), which is the public transportation operating agency for the county, has implemented a master plan for Union Station that will upgrade and enhance the entire facility.  While this master plan includes a daunting list of Metro’s 50 contiguous acres that encompass the terminal building, including the rail yard, nearby transportation facilities, Metro’s headquarters, and a local restaurant, it was the station’s roof that needed some of the most immediate attention.

Union Station’s roof is an example of the rise of Mission, Spanish, and Mediterranean architectural styles in the United States in the 20th century. Coupled with this rise came a resurgence in clay tile popularity. Previously, more cost-effective options, such as wood, slate, and sheet metal, were used in place of clay. However, the popularity of European architectural styles invited a renewed interest in clay tile as an elegant and beautiful roofing option.

MCA® Clay Roof Tile, Corona, California, was the producer of the replica tiles needed to complete the reroof. Their commitment to the research and development of state-of-the-art roofing tiles shines through in their execution of modern, traditional, and historical roof designs. “The creation of replica tile cannot be accomplished by just anyone. It’s a specialty item. We at MCA take great care into creating tile that honors the architect’s original vision,” said Yoshi Suzuki, MCA Clay Roof Tile president and CEO. “We are proud to play an integral part in historical renovation projects such as Los Angeles Union Station, and to preserve this landmark’s legacy for future generations.”

Los Angeles Historic Union Station

The original clay tiles on the Historic Union Station were over 80 years old.

Before beginning the historic reroof, MCA Clay Roof Tile retrieved a tile from the original roof, to make the most accurate duplicate tile possible. MCA Clay Tile used several historic tiles for the reroof. Old San Valle 18” Long Mission Tile was used for the newer wing of the station. Its coloring contained 40% natural red, 40% of MCA’s old Santa Barbara light, 20% old Santa Barbara medium, and natural red pans. The older section of the station used the same coloring, but with MCA’s Old L.A. Brick Double Tapered Mission Tile. Architectural Resources Group, Inc., Pasadena, California, and Swinerton Builders, Los Angeles, California, worked closely with MCA to ensure the integrity of the historic roof remained. “This was the third historic building project we’ve worked with MCA on in the last few years, but this was by far the most interest-ing because we had to mix new and historic tiles together, while maintaining the historic coloring and blend,” said Alice Valania, AIA, LEED AP, Architectural Resources Groups, Inc.

Eberhard™ Roofing, Van Nuys, California, was the roofing contractor brought on to install the new roof. They used two-ply Polystick MTS underlayment, by Polyglass®, a great choice for a clay tile project in sum-mer heat, and most tiles were removed and then reinstalled with mud. Repairs to the gutters were also implemented as part of the project. “Seventy-five years of Los Angeles air had also settled on these roofs, so once the historic tiles were cleaned and on the roofs with the new tiles, we relied on the craftsmen to blend and set the tiles in the random expo-sure pattern characteristic of the historic layout. Eberhard worked to salvage as many roof tiles as possible during the removals, carefully removing the mortar so they could be reattached in the same method,” Valania continued.

Re-roof project, Los Angeles Historic Union Station

Lay Roof Tile retrieved a tile from the original roof to make historically accurate replacement tiles for the project.

Despite the use of top-notch mate-rials and a collaborative team, the project wasn’t easy. “Temperatures reached as high as 100º on some sum-mer days,” said Ramon Soto, project manager, Eberhard Roofing. Additionally, scaffolding had to be installed to protect the pedestrians during installations. The reroof project also had to coordinated around a concurrent HVAC installation, as well as the 24/7 station operations schedule, which included weddings and special events. “Despite all this, everyone involved was nice, cooperative, and serious about making the new look match the existing roof,” Soto continued. “Overall, the reroof project was run smoothly and professionally.”

The Los Angeles Union Station terminal building is well on its way to being elevated to a world-class facility, as is the hopes of Metro. MCA’s historically accurate tiles and the precision used for their installation will ensure that the station’s historic legacy and integrity will remain intact for many years to come.