The need to restore the Colorado capitol dome became apparent back in 2006 when a piece of cast iron fell onto the public observation deck as the result of more than 100 years of water infiltration and decay. It took until 2010 to develop a funding mechanism, and actual construction didn't begin until 2012 following an intense forensic analysis of the structure. The project's goal is to repair damage and restore the exterior painted circular tower above the roof of the capitol, and re-gild the famous gold dome atop the century-old historic landmark. Despite appearances, the architectural structure and exterior detail was originally manufactured out of cast iron — not out of stone as many believed.
Dome Exterior Restoration Project Fact Sheet
The Need for the Work:
More than a century of water infiltration coupled with Colorado's freeze/thaw cycle caused extreme rusting and deterioration of the metal on the exterior of the cast iron tower and dome. Not easily visible from the ground, this corrosion included the metal fasteners holding the architectural details in place. Hundreds of pieces of the assembly were affected by the weather over the dome's history.
The damage to the dome is not apparent from inside of the capitol. However, the outside observation deck has been closed to all visitors since 2006 when fasteners holding a portion of the cast iron detail failed and part of the structure fell. Fortunately, nobody was injured as a result of the failure.
The General Timeline:
A forensic investigation of the dome's state of disrepair was completed and restoration began following the legislature's passing a package of funding bills in 2010.
- Phase I: Scaffold/scrim rising to the upper balustrade was completed in February 2012.
- Phase II: Scaffold/scrim rising to the bottom of the dome was completed in October 2012.
- Phase III: Scaffold/scrim wrapping the entire dome and lantern was completed May 2013 - Dismantling of the scrim and scaffold began in late December 2013.
As the scaffolding is dismantled and final restoration takes place, the project is continuously monitored by the state for quality and compliance with the specifications of the restoration. While structural and cosmetic work was completed to exacting detail, it is anticipated during the final phases of the restoration that some "fine tuning" of the building will be necessary. The project continues to remain on time and within budget. The project is scheduled for completion by the late summer/early fall 2014.
As the project neared completion, visitors noticed that the dome and tower structure's color differed slightly from what they remembered prior to the project's start. The blue-gray color represents the historically accurate color from over a century ago. A team of dedicated scientific, historic preservation and architectural experts determined the historically correct color and sheen for the new finish.
- Dome Color Fact Sheet
The Dome – Yesterday and Today:
The architect of the Colorado capitol, Elijah Myers, originally planned for the dome of the capitol to be copper. However, after completion of the structure in 1894, the legislature agreed that the copper should be covered with gold leaf for aesthetics, and to represent the significance of gold to the state's history. The gold-leafed dome made its first appearance in 1908.
At the start of the current restoration project a forensic analysis of the dome's cast iron architecture revealed that the original color of the cast iron portion of the dome was significantly darker than the chalky gray color most people remember from right before the restoration project. The dome was not originally designed to resemble the granite used to construct the main portion of the building.
The color on the cast iron portions of the dome tower seen today is consistent with the color palette used during the building's original construction. Historians confirmed and approved the color used in the restoration. Contrast between the dome tower and the building's stonework in Colorado is similar in style to other state capitol buildings designed by Myers prior to his work on the Colorado capitol (see the Texas and the Michigan state capitol buildings).
As the scaffolding is dismantled and final restoration takes place the building is continuously monitored by the state for quality and compliance with the project's specifications. While structural and cosmetic work was completed to exacting detail it is anticipated during the final phases of the restoration that some "fine tuning" of the building will be necessary. The project remains on time and within budget, scheduled for completion by late summer/early fall 2014.
Gold for this restoration was donated by AngloGold Ashanti's Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company, from the same Teller County, Colorado source that produced the first gold to adorn the capitol dome. It took approximately 65 ounces of .9999 pure gold to complete this project. At the time of donation, the estimated value of the gold, refining and transportation was $125,000.
- Gold Leaf Fact Sheet
DOME GOLD LEAF FACTS
- All the gold for the leaf was mined in Colorado (AngloGold Ashanti and Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company).
- The Colorado gold was then refined in Utah to 24 karat (.9999 pure) gold and hammered into gold leaf in Florence, Italy
- Gold leaf is applied (burnished) by brush from the back of a paper roll to tacky oil adhesive (sizing) over primer on copper.
- Each leaf is 3 1/8" x 3 1/8" square and rolled to between 1/8,000 and 1/10,000 inch thick (21 grams per 1,000 leaves).
- A single roll of gold leaf is 4 1/8" by 67' (100 rolls, 240 leaves per roll). A double roll is 7¾" x 67' (90 rolls, 480 leaves per roll).
- Application of the leaves has proceeded at approximately 50 – 100 square feet per day.
- 60 – 65 ounces of gold will be required to cover the dome and lantern (approximately 140,000 leaves).
- Gilding of the dome began in early November 2013 and it is estimated to take four to six weeks to complete.
- This is the first time scaffolding has been placed on the capitol roof to accommodate restoration. In the past, workers rappelled down the outside of the structure to re-gild the dome.
Funding for the restoration came by way of a package of bills passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2010.
The anticipated cost of the dome restoration project was about $17 million. Most of the cost (nearly two-thirds) was paid by the History Colorado State Historical Fund, which generates money from limited gaming like blackjack and poker (in which bets are limited to $100). The State paid for about one-third of the project cost from taxpayer dollars. Some money was also raised from private donations through the Share in the Care campaign. The package of bills passed by the Colorado General Assembly to fund the project include SB11-155, SB11-209 (page 461), HB12-1335 (page 245) and SB13-230 (page 249).