Statehouse dome starts major makeover

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- There's a big change going on in Augusta –and it isn't about politics. The Statehouse dome is getting a total makeover. Scaffolding now surrounds the dome and work has started on a two-part renovation project. The hundred-year-old copper roof will be replaced with new copper. The job is being done because the dome roof now leaks. David Boulter, executive director of the Legislature, says the leaks were discovered two years ago because of some damage to the plaster on the inside surface of the dome.

Unlike the Statehouse building, which is made from granite, the dome structure is built with a steel frame and concrete. The exterior of the concrete is covered by the copper. The dome is actually much newer than the Statehouse. It was added to the building in 1909-1910. The copper on the dome is original, has been repaired in spots but never replaced. Statehouse historical records say the copper was expected to last 70 years, but has actually lasted more than a hundred years.

Perched above the dome is the Lady of Wisdom statue, and that, too, is part of the restoration job. Boulter says the statue is also made of copper, and originally was covered with gold leaf. But that material has mostly worn away, and the gold on the statue now is primarily paint. Boulter says the paint a specialty restoration company from New York will remove the paint, repair the statue, and then apply new gold leaf. "When she is refurbished and relighted," he says, "she should sparkle from miles and miles away."

The statue restoration will come first, so that part of the scaffolding can then be removed. Then the Heritage Company from Waterboro, Maine will move in and replace the copper roof. That, too, will provide a dramatic new look to the building. The weathered green copper will be gone, and won't be seen again for a very long time. David Boulter says the dome will gleam like a shiny new penny for the first six months, then the copper will weather to the dull brown color of an older penny. He says it will take "a generation or two" for the copper to acquire the green patina Mainers have seen for the past seventy years.

Total cost for the project is budgeted at $1.3 million, paid for by the Legislature's budget.


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