The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 07, 2015

Cleaned, sealed, painted, tuck-pointed: Capitol Building ready to gleam again

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING - The Michigan State Capitol Building - perhaps the state's second-most iconic structure after the Mackinac Bridge - is getting some TLC from some skilled trades and contractors.

Since springtime, tiers of scaffolding began surrounding the cast iron and sheetmetal dome, whose tip stands 267 feet above ground. And this summer, union masons, painters, and sheetmetal workers have been all over the dome and the limestone and sandstone-clad structure below, painting, caulking, repairing joints, and restoring and replacing decorative architectural elements.

Murray Painting is taking care of the dome's paint job and areas below, Custom Architectural Sheetmetal Specialists (CASS) is repairing the damage on the dome and Schiffer Masonry is working on the building's sandstone restoration. Christman Co. is managing the entire $6.4 million project.

“If we didn’t deal with this now, it was going to be a major, major problem in the future,” said state House of Representatives Clerk Gary Randall, in a statement. “We had reached a point where there was some serious erosion problems, similar to what is occurring with the U.S. Capitol right now.”

According to the House GOP office, without immediate exterior action, the cost to repair water damage of the detailed decorative paintings inside the Capitol would far exceed the cost of the preventative restoration currently taking place. This is the first major renovation since the state performed a major overhaul of the building in the early 1990s

“Due to the ever changing hot and cold conditions, joints have begun to crack or fail, caulk has become brittle and paint has flaked or peeled,” said state House Business Office Director Tim Bowlin. “These issues have led to structural damage and water penetration into the building.”

Constructed in 1878, the Michigan State Capitol is a National Historic Landmark. The building was designed by the preeminent post-Civil War architect Elijah E. Meyers in a Neoclassical, Italianate style. According to Your State Capitol, a publication of the Michigan Legislature, Meyes was virtually unknown until he won a national competition in 1871 to design the building. His design, using the Capitol Building in Washington as a guide, was chosen over 20 others. It was the only one that could work within the $1.2 million budget.

"Soon Meyers ranked as one of America's most noted - and most prolific architects," says Your State Capitol. "By the time he died in 1909 Myers had designed more state capitols than any other architect in American history. Today, the capitols of Michigan, Texas and Colorado still stand as lasting monuments to his skill."

Restoration architect Quinn Evans handled the state Capitol Building's exterior renovation in the 1989-1992 project, and provided an exterior assessment last year to the state as part of the project preparation to maintain historic elements on the exterior masonry and dome.

"We're doing stone repair, replacement, tuckpointing, cleaning - everything that's necessary" to renovate the exterior, said foreman Doug Armstrong of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 2, working for Schiffer Masonry. "All in all, for a building that's 140 years old, it's in pretty good shape."

Located at the intersection of Capitol and Michigan avenues, the building at one time was large enough to house the state's government agencies and departments. Now, the building houses only the legislative and executive branches of Michigan's state government, as well as the ceremonial offices of the state's governor and lieutenant governor. On the ground floor can be found several offices, such as the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House.

Over the years the metal dome has become pitted and gouged, and more than 1,000 small metal decorative balls have fallen off spirals that wrap the dome. The dome will be painted to match the color of the sandstone on the building below. This renovation is expected to be complete in November.

“The Capitol Building is a state and national treasure where all Michigan citizens can come to voice their opinion and interact with state government,” Bowlin said. “The Capitol is the people’s building, and it’s our job to properly maintain it.”

MICHIGAN’S CAPITOL BUILDING, shown here looking up Michigan Ave. in Lansing, has been undergoing extensive renovations this year on its exterior. Most prominently, the building’s dome is encased in scaffolding to give trades workers access to repair its cast iron and sheet metal skin.

APPLYING A COAT of trim paint to match the color of the Capitol Building’s sandstone is Scott Crites of Michigan Painters District Council, Local 1052. He’s employed by Murray Painting.

PROVIDING A HIGH PRESSURE shower to the sandstone exterior of the Michigan Capitol Building is Brian West of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 2. He’s employed by Schiffer Masonry.