PHOTOS: Take a tour inside Capitol renovations
More than 200 feet above ground, work is starting on the final piece of renovation to the Wisconsin State Capitol.
This week, crews closed off the Capitol Rotunda and first floors, and covered them with plywood ahead of work that will be done above.
“It’s pretty much a basic plaster repair project but it’s 200 feet up in the air inside the most prominent building in the state,” architect Laura Davis said.
The Capitol’s dome is actually made of two parts, an interior dome that visitors can see from below, and an exterior dome that is covered with the granite seen from outside. The two domes are separated by an open space filled with stairs and a small metal balcony. From that space you can see the inside of the exterior dome is covered in plaster, which is falling apart.
“Over the years moisture has built up inside this dome area in the interstitial space and in 2007 we put in a dehumidification system to dry out this area to get rid of that built-up moisture,” Davis said.
Davis said they knew that drying out the plaster would cause it to crumble.
“It doesn’t look pretty now, but it is what we expected and we are coming back now and repairing the plaster,” David said.
There’s also a small bit of plaster that has cracked inside the interior dome, in an area visible to the public. Ironically, that bit of repair will involve the most intensive amount of work, with workers perched inside a cage suspended from an I-beam at the top of the dome.
“The workers are going to have to suspend themselves from this oculus area and swing themselves over to repair the plaster area,” Davis said.
Workers will also paint the 6-foot ring around the dome, because the paint color has changed after many years in place.
The work inside the dome will take one month, and is scheduled to be done in time for the holiday tree to fill the Capitol Rotunda.
But more hard labor will continue up top as two semi-loads of scaffolding is lifted by cranes, and then hauled up a flight of steep stairs to fix the plaster the public can’t see.
“There will be pallet loads of plaster because it will be mixed on site,” said Mike Bath, the field construction representative with the Department of Administration. “All the rubble has to go down too. So it’s a big thing.”
For Davis, the project is a labor of love, as she’s been involved in work on the state’s most iconic building since 1992.
“I call it my building,” Davis said. “I think everybody calls it their building. It’s the state’s living room.”
And as that living room gets one last renovation, Davis said she has mixed feelings about the end of the process.
“It’s sad but it’s always fun to bring people around to show off your work and to know you’ve been a part of it,” Davis said.
The full repair of the Capitol dome is expected to be done by the end of the year.