Capitol Restoration Update
Over the past few months, we have observed a few significant milestones on the Capitol Restoration Project. Here’s a look at what’s happening now.
To date, five exterior elevations of the Capitol have been completely restored. Within the next few days, scaffolding will start coming down on the east façade of the south wing, marking completion of the sixth elevation. Later this week, crews will finish erecting scaffolding on the west façade of the west wing, allowing them to start repairs on that side of the building.
Over the past few months, a great deal of work has been going on behind the tarp on the south façade of the south wing. Within this area is the beautiful south portico, with its towering columns and intricate cast iron decorative features on the historic entrance. Massive steel pocket doors, over 18 feet tall, decorated with cast iron rosettes reside within the stone walls.
As impressive as this area is, it has sustained some of the most wear and tear over the years. The steel and cast iron adorning the entrance has cracked in some areas and the paint has peeled off. Due to deterioration of the pocket door track, the ceremonial doors do not operate easily. Years of water runoff have damaged large stones near the top of the structure. The doors to enter the building are warped and no longer close properly. Adding to the terrible conditions, pigeons have nested in the column capitals causing staining on the stone and an unpleasant odor in the portico.
The exterior restoration team, headed by JE Dunn Construction, has removed the deteriorated mortar from the joints that still had mortar, and applied new mortar in all stone joints. This will shore up the building from water infiltration. Large stones, up high on the building at the frieze and architrave levels, too damaged for repair, have been completely replaced with new limestone from the same area in Indiana where the original stone was quarried. Due to the staining on this façade of the Capitol resulting from an inappropriate silicone sealer applied years ago, and the presence of the pigeons, an extensive stone cleaning regimen has been employed, to great effect. At the same time, new lighting has been installed at the top of the south portico to provide better illumination behind the majestic columns. In a few weeks, bird netting will be installed at the top of the portico to prevent the pigeons from nesting in there again.
Workers have dedicated quite a bit of time to restoring the decorative cast iron elements at the historic main entrance. Layers of lead paint, applied throughout the years, have been removed through a process called micro-abrasion. With the paint removed, workers are now carefully examining the cast iron and repairing any cracks or imperfections that became visible. Meanwhile, Evergreene Architectural Arts, our historic paint consultant, analyzed the paint on the state seal above the entrance to provide the design team information on how the seal was originally painted one hundred years ago. Information gleaned from this process will allow our team to recreate the seal’s original look.
At the end of February, the scaffolding on this façade will begin to be disassembled. Once the scaffolding is down, everyone will be wowed by the transformation of this monumental space.
Last week, we achieved a major milestone on the interior restoration of the Capitol. The west corridor on the Ground Floor (formerly basement) was re-opened to the public. If you haven’t had a chance to see the new corridor, you should make plans to do so. The new design of this area will eventually filter throughout the Ground Floor, as it will serve as the primary entrance point for visitors to the Capitol. Once completed by our interior restoration team, the Ground Floor will be the location of many visitor amenities such as food service, expanded restroom banks, the visitor center, and the exhibition hall.
What you do not see as you walk down the completed corridor is all of the infrastructure updates behind the walls and above the ceiling. The west wing of the Ground Floor is where all of the utilities, such as plumbing and electrical services, enter and exit the building. Consequently, many of the Capitol’s critical operational systems were modernized during work in this area. The Capitol gained a new condensing water system to provide climate control to the office areas of the building. A new generator was installed to provide emergency power during outages. New electrical switch gear was installed to serve as the electrical “brain” for the building. Finally, all of the antiquated plumbing was completely replaced and new data cabling was added.
Now that the Ground Floor west wing is essentially completed, our interior construction team, headed by Manhattan Construction, has turned its attention to the north wing. This area will see the installation of a full service kitchen and dining area. The kitchen will be capable of serving hot foods and the dining area will seat up to 60 people. This wing will also have an area devoted to soft seating for those who may need to take a break during long days at the Capitol. Elsewhere, crews have started demolishing the northwest freight elevator. Once the old elevator is removed, the shaft will be expanded and a new freight elevator will be installed. All of this work will be completed in mid-2019.
While the work on the Ground Floor is occurring, crews will be working at various other places across the Capitol, most notably, the east wing of the 1st floor. In the fall, new suites for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the State Auditor’s office will be completed. Our team is also preparing for the new governor’s administration. The Governor-elect suite will be completed in the fall and will serve as the temporary location for the Governor’s office while construction occurs in their regular office space on the 2nd floor during 2019.
As each office suite and public area is completed, the Capitol is that much closer to being more functional for those who work here and visit here. With each passing day, the state’s most treasured building is closer to being fully restored.