State making progress on two Capitol restoration projects

Julie Smith/News Tribune photo:
Ray Wells detaches the strap from the load as the Budrovich Crane operator prepares to get more plywood from the roof of the Missouri Capitol Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Wells works for Pro Construction Services and worked with the crew from Central MIssouri Glass in Boonville to put temporary surface on the roof for the contractors to walk on during the project. Now those materials will be used on the east side of the statehouse in order to replace the skylights that have been damaged over time.
Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Ray Wells detaches the strap from the load as the Budrovich Crane operator prepares to get more plywood from the roof of the Missouri Capitol Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Wells works for Pro Construction Services and worked with the crew from Central MIssouri Glass in Boonville to put temporary surface on the roof for the contractors to walk on during the project. Now those materials will be used on the east side of the statehouse in order to replace the skylights that have been damaged over time.

The second phase of a $2.1 million project to replace skylights at the Missouri Capitol building commenced Wednesday.

Crews from Prost Builders, a Jefferson City-based contractor, blocked off the front circle drive around the Capitol to operate a crane tall enough to reach the top of the building.

Old skylight windows and the copper framework holding them in place were removed and brought to the ground.

Chris Moreland, public information officer for the Missouri Office of Administration, said the crane was also used to remove materials that protected the Capitol roof while crews repaired and replaced skylights during the first phase of the project, which began mid-November.

Approximately 21 skylights are being repaired or replaced at the Capitol through the project, Moreland said.

Contractors are performing the work in phases, starting first with the west side of the roof before moving to the east side.

The skylights varied in age, Moreland said, but all were at least 45 years old.

"The skylights had exceeded their useful life," he wrote in an email to the News Tribune. "Some of the glass had become damaged and resulted in some leaking."

The crane will be back today to place materials on the southeast side of the roof, which includes the area around the guardshack and front of the building.

Crews will then spend the next couple weeks setting the new skylights in place.

The crane will return Dec. 30 to remove materials remaining from the second phase of the project.

The skylight project is loosely tied to a $3.4 million companion project focused on restoring the stained glass laylight above the Capitol grand staircase. A laylight is a glazed panel set flush with the ceiling for the purpose of admitting natural or artificial light.

The Capitol's stained glass laylight was created by New York artist Harman T. Schladermundt and installed in the building in the early 1920s. It's currently valued at $17.3 million, Moreland said.

The first phase of the restoration work was complete by Dec. 1. That phase involved closing off the grand staircase -- accessible from the third floor rotunda -- to build scaffolding, removing the stained glass, installing temporary frosted plexi-glass in the steel frame and shipping the stained glass to California.

The stained glass took 20 trucks to haul to California, Moreland said.

Restoration of the stained glass, which will be done by Judson Studios in Los Angeles, California, with consultation from Julie Sloan of Lake Placid, New York, is set to start in January.

Moreland said the contractors will restore the stained glass to its "original intent," meaning pieces of missing glass will be re-created and pieces of glass that were improperly replaced throughout its 100-year lifetime will be redone. The glasswork will be strengthened and the existing steel frames may be adjusted after analysis.

"Areas of deterioration from improper maintenance throughout its history will be rectified and corrected," he added.

In addition to the stained glass, the decorative plasterwork around the laylight will be restored.

Moreland said the project is expected to be complete by Nov. 1, 2024. It will be shipped back to Missouri and installed in the Capitol after the 2024 regular legislative session.

The scaffolding on the grand staircase from the initial phase of the project has been taken down but the staircase remains blocked off.

And much of the Capitol interior remains in flux as lawmakers move offices in preparation for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 4.

photo Juile Smith/News Tribune Frosty Vestal, left, and Nick Heimericks toss a window pane onto a trailer Wednesday while working on a proect at the Capitol. The skylights being replaced were installed in 1982 and over time the seals on the windows have failed and the frames allowed water to infiltrate the building. Nearly two dozen windows were replaced and new metal frames were constructed to secure the glass in place. Vestal and Heimericks work for Central Missouri Glass in Boonville and soon will start working on the skylights on the east side of the building.