$6.9 Million Facelift Underway at Mississippi Capitol Building - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

$6.9 Million facelift underway at State Capitol Building

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Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration
Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration
Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration Source: MS Department of Finance and Administration
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

For the first time in 30 years, a much needed restoration and repair project is under way at the Mississippi State Capitol building in downtown Jackson. 

Work crews are installing massive construction scaffolding that will envelop different parts of the 110 year old structure over the next two years. 

It's the first phase of an effort to improve the building's water tightness and stop further deterioration of the Mississippi Landmark.

The building's limestone exterior and three domes (the large Main Dome and the House and Senate chamber domes) are the focus of the repair work as weather and just plain old age have left the historic Capitol with deficiencies like leaks, cracks, stains and rust. 

Recent inspections found that deteriorated roofing and cladding materials, especially on the Capitol's Main Dome, have been allowing water to infiltrate the building.  Damaged terra cotta on the Main Dome must be replaced, the two chamber domes' skylights will be re-glazed, and roofing and flashing will be repaired and replaced. 

Not an easy feat for workers, considering the building's roof spans approximately 402 feet, and the main dome rises to a height of 180 feet. 

"Leaks are common in buildings with complicated roofs like the Capitol.  Over the years, we have been conducting small repairs, but the entire Capitol including the dome, has not undergone a complete renovation in nearly three decades, since the early 1980's,"said Kevin Upchurch, Executive Director of the Department of Finance and Administration.  "Fixing the problems and stopping any leaking are absolutely necessary to preserving this magnificent landmark and ensuring that it can last another 110 years."

Also requiring significant effort and time during this 24 month long project will be necessary general maintenance and repairs like cleaning the building's exterior stone walls which are made of gray limestone and granite, re-pointing mortar joints, replacing broken concrete walkways, and removing, repairing and reinstalling the building's wooden windows, including its beautiful stained glass.

In addition to the stained glass windows, other well recognized elements will be restored. The exterior cast bronze light fixtures and the copper globe lights have already been removed for restoration.

The majestic gold eagle (8 feet tall and 15 feet wide) perched on the very top of the Capitol dome structure will be repaired and re-gilded. An original terra cotta railing around the lantern on top of the Main Dome will be replicated and installed in place of the simple sheet metal railing that replaced it in the early 1970s.

Perhaps the largest and most complicated undertaking of this nearly $7 million bond project will be the restoration of the Main Dome's lantern.

"The deterioration of the lantern will require us to dismantle the railing and columns, expose the steel structure, perform repairs and then put it back together," says project architect Lawson Newman, who works for the firm WFT Architects in Jackson and is overseeing the entire Capitol restoration. "The building is really in pretty good shape due to the fact it was renovated in the early 1980's.  Several recent State Capitol renovations around the country have had to address much more extensive deterioration," according to Newman who mentions a recent $200 million plus interior/exterior restoration project on the Kansas Statehouse building. 

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) wants to insure that the restoration maintains the original design whenever possible and that the project conforms to the historic nature of the building.  Newman has spent countless hours researching the architectural and structural components of the Capitol and is working closely with MDAH to enlist the best resources from across the country. Brenda Davis, State Capitol Curator say they have "gone to great lengths to be sure all subcontractors were qualified to work on the project and that they specialize in historic preservation." 

Davis says three of the firms are nationally known for their work on historic buildings and are only one of a few companies remaining in their specialized field: The Gilders' Studio located in Olney, Maryland  has completed work on the Washington Monument and the Georgia State Capitol Dome  and will be re-gilding the eagle; Robinson Iron in neighboring Alexander City, Alabama has worked on large projects like Grand Central Station in New York City and will oversee the metal restoration, including the cast bronze exterior light fixtures and door surrounds and the copper globe lights; and Boston Valley Terra Cotta a company in business since 1889 in Orchard Park, New York and is an industry leader in historic terra cotta fabrication.

A well-known Mississippi company, Pearl River Stained Glass Studio, will oversee the delicate repairs to the Capitol's magnificent stained glass windows.

The project's general contractor, Johnson Construction, was founded in Mississippi in 1968 and supervised the recent restoration of the Old Capitol Museum building on State Street. 

The Capitol has been the home of the state legislature since 1903.  It was built on the site of the old state penitentiary. 

Not only is the Capitol building designated a Mississippi landmark, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Capitol will remain open for tours during the renovation. 

Tours are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

Admission is free.

The project should be completed by mid to late 2016 and will be done in multiple phases.  

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