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Missouri Capitol Commission preparing for bronze doors restoration

by Ryan Pivoney | September 13, 2022 at 4:08 a.m.
Ryan Stuecken, left, and Matthew Coley teamed up Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, to close the bronze doors on the Missouri Capitol's south side. Both work for Facilities Management and open and close the doors when necessary. Work is being done in the 30-foot wide stairway to put down protective covering over the steps in preparation for scaffolding installation. The bronze doors stand 13-feet wide by 18-feet in height and currently are being opened each day to accommodate the prep work underway. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

Contractors are assessing the Missouri Capitol's main bronze doors ahead of their planned restoration.

Construction barriers stationed at the top of the Capitol steps went up this week as the assessment requires the primary doors to be opened regularly.

The Missouri State Capitol Commission plans to restore the bronze doors and make them operational again, providing potential for an evacuation point on the building's upper floors or a new visitor entrance.

"They really haven't been opened on a regular basis since (Jay) Nixon was governor," said Patrick Baker, Capitol Commission chair and Senate administrator. "They were open every day and used as a visitor entrance."

During the most recent legislative session, Missouri lawmakers appropriated $400,000 to restore the doors. The General Assembly also designated the funds in 2021.

The two primary bronze doors located at the top of the Capitol's center steps are on hinges while the side doors open into pockets.

Dana Rademan Miller, chief clerk and House administrator, said a preliminary report on the doors determined a consultant would need to fully examine them to determine what needs to be done.

"They put like a little scope in there with a camera to see, and there's 100 years worth of debris that's built up, which is why they can't open them," she said.

Baker said the full examination of the doors is happening now. The goal is to make the doors operational and restore them to what they originally looked like.

"They're trying to determine what's there and is that what's supposed to be there," he said. "And then work around the operability of the doors."

Miller said the contractors will follow a process that allows them to take the door structures apart, make repairs and then put them back together.

The Capitol Commission is responsible for the preservation, restoration and renovation of the Capitol building and the more than 120 pieces of art inside and around the grounds.

Baker said the commission tries to keep projects consistent with existing structures and design, and the bronze doors are a "piece of artwork in themselves."

The statues stationed in front of the Capitol are also made of bronze, as are a few others around the grounds. Baker said it's unclear at this point if the original look of the doors matched the statues of the same material.

"So we're not going to do the doors to exactly match if they should have been something else," he said. "They were designed with some sort of intent, and we want to honor that."

Capitol staff stopped opening the doors about five years ago when security checkpoints were reinstituted in the building, Baker said.

The doors are a big deal, Miller said, not just in size but function.

The third and fourth floors of the Capitol don't have emergency exits that lead directly outside, meaning anyone working on those floors would need to travel to lower levels to evacuate.

"I would like to see those doors open again just, for a lack of anything else, for security reasons so that when we have a full chamber and full rotunda if there would be a need to evacuate the building we could go through those doors very quickly," Miller said. "And that would be a safe way to evacuate from the third floor directly out of the building, and right now, we don't have that."

Baker said he would like the bronze doors to be used as a visitor entrance again in the future, but at the very least have them operational to let people out of the building.

Baker said he's unsure of the restoration timeline because a lot of it will depend on the contractor's final analysis.

That analysis could also raise the project cost if $400,000 is only enough to cover the assessment, he said.

"It's an important feature of the building, and we certainly want it operable and to look the way it should look," Baker said. "I appreciate the General Assembly's support in funding that project and recognizing that there's maintenance to do on any home you own."

In addition to the bronze doors, Baker said ongoing Capitol renovation projects include restoration of the stained glass and skylights, restoration of the south lawn fountains and repairing a crack in the ceiling of the Missouri Legislative Library.

The interior stairs and rotunda space by the bronze doors are blocked off because of the stained glass project, he said.

Renovations in the House and Senate chambers are on hold while legislators return for the upcoming special legislative session, slated to start Wednesday.

Print Headline: Capitol Commission preparing for bronze doors restoration


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