Michigan House Republicans
Bezotte: Capitol dome restoration nearly done
RELEASE|April 14, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

I normally like to use this column to give you an update about what’s happening politically at our Capitol in Lansing, but this week I’ve got an update about what is happening with the Capitol building itself: a major renovation project is coming to an end.

The Capitol rotunda (the center part of the building directly under the dome) has been off-limits since last summer due to a project to restore the dome interior. The restoration work was needed to repair damage from condensation and clean more than 30 years of dust and dirt buildup.

To do this work, a crew had to build a massive scaffold inside the building. The scaffolding was imposing; it weighed 70 tons and stood more than 150 feet high, and it consisted of more than 10,000 individual pieces. To support the added weight, steel beams were placed in the Capitol sub-basement and on the ground under the glass floor of the rotunda.

(Funny enough, tens of thousands of students visit the Capitol each year on field trips, and the first thing a lot of them do when they hear the floor is glass is jump up and down to see if they can break it.)

Aside from making repairs and cleaning and repainting the decorative surfaces, the scaffolding gave conservators a chance to clean the eight paintings of allegorical figures that adorn the interior of the dome. (These are also referred to as the Capitol muses.) The paintings are about 8 feet tall by about 5 feet across, and they represent various priorities of the state during the late 19th Century.

Conservators cleaned the paintings and injected an adhesive behind loose paint where parts had flaked off. They then added a varnish layer which, in addition to protecting the paintings, also helps bring out the richness of the original colors. Then they filled in missing areas in a process called inpainting.

As the scaffolding gets taken down, the Capitol Commission will be able to take straight-on, unobstructed photos of the paintings of the muses for the first time in history. I’m looking forward to being able to share some of the pictures with you on my Facebook page. If you’re on Twitter (which was recently renamed X), you can see some of the work by following the Capitol account @MIStateCapitol.

This project was the first time that the Capitol rotunda has had scaffolding since the original renovation of the Capitol building back in 1989 to 1992. The restoration work for this current project should last at least 40 years (or hopefully longer, because conservators also improved the building’s environmental controls which should extended the life expectancy).

The work was budgeted at $3 million but the final price tag will come in lower than expected because the project wrapped up early. It will take about a month for the scaffolding to get fully disassembled, but the rotunda should be open to the public again by June.

If you’ve never been to Lansing to see the Capitol building, or it’s been a long time, it’s worth seeing. And if you do come to Lansing, please reach out to my office; schedule permitting, I’d like to say hello.

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