Last week's removal of the statue of Ceres — the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships — was just the latest part of the ongoing renovation and restoration work of the Missouri Capitol.
Cathy Brown, director of Missouri's Division of Facilities Management, Design and Construction in the Office of Administration, told reporters last week the renovation project — scheduled to run until the end of 2020 — is about 25 percent finished and, currently, is on-schedule.
The $28.69 million project is intended to restore much of the Capitol's exterior stone work, from the top of the dome to the ground 238 feet below, as well as around the sides of the building.
Chicago-based Bulley & Andrews Masonry Restoration LLC is the main contractor on the Capitol renovation project.
"We're trying to eliminate the massive amount of water infiltration that's been occurring in the building over the years," Brown explained. "The contractor is grinding out every single joint in that building and replacing it (or) repointing it.
"They're checking every stone — there's a four-part process for every single stone, that gets carefully reviewed by the structural engineers, the architects and the contractor."
The process includes the use of electronic equipment, video and human touch.
"It's very, very impressive," Brown said.
And it's very needed, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe told reporters Thursday.
"You can see some deterioration from the ground, naturally," he explained. "But when you get up close and look at it — it's amazing that somebody didn't get hurt.
"The stones are that deteriorated. There's that much separation in some of the joints."
The Capitol renovation work officially began March 2.
However, Brown noted, state officials have "been planning the entire project (starting) more than six years ago."
And the work includes the dome and the "drum" — the area that's between the dome and the main building — and the "lantern," which is the upper, smaller dome immediately below where Ceres has stood for the last 94 years.
"The damage is caused by the aging and weathering of the stone and column assembly — which is what one can expect over 100 years," Brown said.
For instance, the 550-ton crane used to carry Ceres from her top-of-the-dome perch is staying at the Capitol until mid-December, "to continue removal of some of the upper lantern stonework and (parts of the) dome," Brown said.
If not needed before, the crane will be used again about a year from now, when the newly restored and refurbished Ceres will be returned to her place on the top of the Capitol Dome.
After its removal Thursday morning, the statue was driven to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio Inc. in Chicago, where the 10-foot, 4-inch bronze statue will spend most of the next year getting a careful, inch-by-inch restoration with a state-of-the-art laser system.
The plans to restore Ceres actually were added after-the-fact — the statue had to be removed anyway, so the contractors could get access to the capstone and concrete base underneath it.
Brown told the News Tribune recently, "That is the part that has continued to deteriorate (and) has really weathered over the last 100-plus years."
Access to the dome from inside the building has been blocked since Aug. 12.
"The contractor will be using the inside of the dome for access points through the upper windows," Brown said in early August. "In addition, as the contractor works around the outside of the dome, there will be much grinding and hammering and dust as a result of this.
"For the safety of the public and the contractor's employees, no one other than the contractor will be allowed in this area."
The work is being done from the scaffolding that's clearly visible around the dome, and that has been wrapped on the sections surrounding the Capitol's east end.
The white sheeting and the temporary ductwork-like tubing that have been installed on the scaffolding allow the stonework repairs to continue throughout the year — no matter the weather conditions or outside temperature.
"The scaffolding on the eastern end of the building will be in place until mid- to late spring, next year," Brown said. "At the conclusion of the (need for the) east-end scaffolding, that will come down and the west end will look like the east end does now, at this time next year.
"So, we will switch in the spring to the west end of the building for scaffolding."
At the same time, the scaffolding around the dome and drum "will remain in place until the spring of 2020," Brown said. "All scaffolding will come down from the entire building in mid- to late spring 2020.
"That will allow us time to get the south side lawn back, replaced and restored, and the water lines restored.
"The project is scheduled to be complete in December 2020, just in time for the January 2021 inauguration."
So, even though that may seem like a long time from now — two whole years — Brown said there's a lot of work that has to be done.
"There's no time to spare," she said.