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It's Time To Unwrap The Colorado Capitol Dome

Chelsea Nesvig
Creative Commons/Flickr
Shot of Capitol building taken May 2, 2010, before restoration began

Just as the sun began to rise Thursday morning, workers started removing the top portion of the scrim – the white, weatherproof protective wrap that’s completely covered the Capitol dome since May.

Restoration became necessary after years of Colorado’s intense freeze-thaw cycle caused the exterior cast-iron surfaces of the dome to deteriorate. Officials closed the outside observation deck to visitors in 2006 after a large piece of the structure fell off. Nobody was injured.

In 2010 the state legislature passed a package of bills to fund the $17 million project, with scaffolding first going up in early 2012.

"Since 2012, we’ve slowly climbed the dome with that scaffolding and pulled off and restored and repaired a hundred years’ worth of weather and water damage that has occurred to all that cast iron," says Doug Platt with the Department of Personnel and Administration.

The work includes re-gilding the dome with 65 ounces of state-mined gold, maintaining a tradition that began in 1908 when Colorado miners donated the original gold used. During the process architects uncovered artwork dating back to 1894 on the walls of the Senate chamber.

Credit Colorado Dept of Personnel & Administration
Colorado Dept of Personnel & Administration
A rendering of the Capitol dome exterior restoration

Despite some ''challenging'' weather conditions this fall and winter, Platt says the project is still on time and within budget. It will take a few days to remove the protective scrim, while the scaffolding will come down more slowly as crews finish repairs to the observation deck area.

"There’s still restoration work to do on the exterior, as well as floors and so forth inside the dome," Platt says.

Officials expect the dome to reopen to the public in late summer of 2014.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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