Capitol renovation under wraps

  

The Missouri State Capitol is well on its way to being restored to its former glory, with dozens of crew members rolling through the phases of the renovation project.

The process is a long one, but it’s had plenty of solid moments as it has continued, and state officials have said that the project remains on schedule, with a completion date slated for December 2020.

“A lot is going on right now, and a lot has already been accomplished,” Dana Rademan Miller, the chairwoman of the Missouri State Capitol Commission, said.

Just this past July, leaders and donors met with architects and experts to discuss their visions for the Capitol, identifying their chief priorities for the projects, the most important of which was preserving the Capitol while maintaining and improving the integrity of the building.

But the work, for the most part, is hidden in secrecy under the new white shrouds canvassing the building. No longer are the white columns visible to viewers, and Thomas Jefferson’s statue greeting people at the front is now surrounded by scaffolding. 

This summer, the Capitol’s iconic dome was closed to visitors, with access to the small, circular observation deck and its scenic views of Jefferson City and the Missouri River now only accessible by a select few, mainly workers. The Whispering Gallery, however, still remains open, and will continue to be available to access.

In short, the beloved icon of Jefferson City is under wraps, awaiting a grand reveal in the coming years.

Miller explained that there are two major projects underway at the State Capitol. The first of these is the actual renovation and cleaning of the exterior of the building, which is being led by Chicago-based Bulley & Andrews Masonry Restoration LLC (BAMR).

With protective covering around the areas, contractors are working to grind out joints and replace some of the stone with the selected Phenix Marble in a controlled environment. By placing the sheeting around the work areas, it allows the work to be done in spite of the weather, while also keeping a more moderate temperature for the workers in the hot summer months or the cold of winter. Crews are also working on some of the balustrades and terraces, stone handrails and supporting posts around the edge of the walkways and stairs next to the Capitol. Along the way, Miller says that they have identified other small issues, including more water-proofing to be done.

“That was one of those contingencies where you’re not expecting to find those kinds of things, but you do,” Miller said, noting that it hasn’t slowed the process, and some sections have even been completed.

According to one of the lead construction managers, to date, approximately 1,000 stones have either replaced or reset, out of a total of 3,500 stones, roughly about 28 percent of the building’s stones. 

But the building will not be cleaned until after all stone repairs are completed. To do that, BAMR will use a biodegradable solution that is applied with a sprayer and agitated with a brush, then lightly pressure-washed with water.

And this fall, the bronze statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, seated at the very top of the dome, will be coming down for the first time in nearly a century to be restored and refurbished. Miller expects that will be a spectacle for many in Jefferson City, though the details of how it will be done are still being worked out. Due to the height of the Capitol, airlifting may be the route chosen.

The other project lies on the North Plaza, with the fountains, with a view overlooking the Missouri River and the railroad tracks running parallel. That project is expected to be completed sometime around the end of 2018. 

Contractors based out of Missouri are working there to remove the pavers, which will be replaced with Missouri Red Granite, matching those installed around the nearby Veterans Memorial.

Miller says that the labor of love may come with a nearly $29 million price tag, but the hope is to ensure that one of Missouri’s iconic structures is still standing strong for decades to come.

“With the sheeting going up, we’re literally wrapping the building up,” Miller said. “Once she’s done, we’ll unwrap her, and it’ll be really exciting to see what’s underneath all of the years of dirt and deterioration. It’ll be like brand new.”

 

PHOTO/CAPITOL COMMISSION

This appeared in the fall 2018 edition of the Missouri Times Magazine, available in Jefferson City at the Capitol, Tolson’s, Cork, and J. Pfenny’s, and online here.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.