A much-needed facelift for the Capitol dome: Protecting & preserving the people’s building

Categories: In Case You Missed It

Lansing, Mich. — Come within just a few miles of the Michigan State Capitol Building and you’ll notice its iconic white dome looks a little unusual. That’s because it’s encased by tiers of scaffolding to help a restoration team revitalize the 136-year-old structure.

This is the first significant renovation project in more than two decades, and includes weatherproofing, addressing corrosion, repairing decorative elements and cleaning the sandstone walls, as well as repainting the entire dome and more than 200 windows.

The Capitol is the people’s building.

–Tim Bowlin, House Business Office director

House Clerk Gary Randall said if the state Capitol is not refurbished this year, restoration costs would be much greater in the years ahead.

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

With Michigan’s hot, humid summers and extremely cold winters, the exterior of the building—including the dome—are in need of extensive maintenance and repair.

“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 House Business Office Director Tim Bowlin. “These issues have led to structural damage and water penetration into the building.”

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.

The State invested millions to restore the Capitol in 1990 and Bowlin said maintaining it today protects that investment.

“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.”

According to Bowlin, more than 100,000 school children visit the Capitol every year, and an additional 100,000 people participate in state government by attending committee meetings, watching session and meeting with elected officials.

Expected to be complete by November, the restoration will ensure that Michigan’s national landmark is enjoyed for many more years to come.

Photos by Mike Quillinan