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Covering on Colorado Capitol dome starts coming down Thursday

4:42 PM, Dec 26, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Construction crews at the Colorado State Capitol began unwrapping a present for the entire state on Thursday as the scrim covering the iconic gold dome started coming down, revealing its shiny new surface.

"The unveiling of the new state capitol dome really symbolizes Colorado's spirit of determination and our ability to emerge from difficult circumstances with a more solid foundation and bright outlook," Kathy Nesbitt, Executive Director of the Department of Personnel & Administration, said.

"After battling some challenging weather conditions this fall, the gilding process on the dome is complete and the project is still running on time and budget," State Architect Larry Friedberg said.

He is referring to two bouts with high winds and the record-setting cold snap earlier in December that impacted the gilding's progress at the site.

Over the next few days, crews are expected to remove the scrim, followed by the scaffolding that has encircled the gold dome since May. Both will be disassembled down to the observation deck at the base of the gold dome.

It is expected to take just two days to remove the top portion of the scrim, weather permitting. Then, just before New Year's Eve, the scaffolding will begin its descent and take roughly six weeks to remove down to the observation deck.

Despite the completion of the dome's re-gilding, the restoration project still is not complete.

"We still have some important work remaining to restore the observation deck and drum structure below the dome before we reopen the space to the public," Friedberg said.

That final portion of the project is anticipated to end sometime in late summer 2014.

All of the forensic analysis on the project is complete. Every part of the dome has been assessed and general contractor GH Phipps does not expect any more hidden structural issues to affect progress.

"If we have done our jobs well," Friedberg said of the restoration, "you won't be able to tell we were there, except the building will be in much better shape than it was before we started."

The project's goal is to repair and restore damage to the exterior painted circular tower above the roof of the capitol, and re-gild the famous gold dome atop the century-old historic landmark. The architectural structure and exterior detail was originally manufactured out of cast iron - not out of stone as many believe.

The original gold first used to gild the copper-clad dome was donated by Colorado miners. Restoration includes re-gilding of the dome with 65 ounces of gold - again donated to the state from the same Victor & Cripple Creek sources - by AngloGold Ashanti.

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 includes the metal fasteners holding the architectural details in place. Hundreds of pieces of the assembly have been 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.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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