A new copper skin is emerging on the roof and dome of the Kansas Statehouse from a beehive of construction equipment, the latest sign the historic building’s face lift is nearing completion.
The task of replacing the worn copper on the building is one of the final major pieces of a $332 million renovation project that began more than a decade ago in Topeka. The project, completed in phases, restored the building to a look of nearly a century ago while providing new office space for state officials and legislators.
The replacement of the roof should be completed by late November.
Inside the dome, craftsmen will install marble, wood and plaster similar to other locations in the building to finish off the interior of the dome.
“That’s when it will really become a spectacle,” said Jim Rinner, vice president of contractor J.E. Dunn Construction. “Honestly, it’s almost an exact replica of the original Kansas Statehouse as it appeared in early 1900s.”
The project brought new space to the building, primarily underground in areas previously occupied by storage and maintenance areas. The building also was renovated to improve ventilation, technology and security. Crews also found hidden treasures in the process, including letters in the dome. One was wrapped in a copper envelop.
Rinner said work on the roof should make it immune from leaks for about 100 years. New material was placed beneath fresh copper, along with better anchoring techniques to prevent water damage. The west wing is complete and the copper, which is beginning to turn a dark brown, is visible. The east wing is about halfway finished, with work progressing on shorter spans over the north and south.
“The challenge is to tear off part of the roof, put the new roof on and keep the area dry,” said Rinner, who sent most workers home due to Thursday’s rain.
There are 16 oriel windows on the dome, one of which was damaged by a 1966 Topeka tornado. The windows were sent to Germany where experts in copper fabrication overhauled the widow casings. Rinner said testing of the windows for leaks was conducted at an off-site warehouse because of the inability to get enough water pressure to the dome to replicate a heavy downpour.
Remaining interior work, including completion of a new visitors’ center below ground, is expected to be finished by year’s end. The center will have public access from the north entrance to the building.
Barry Greis, the Statehouse architect overseeing the project, said a 12-foot by 25-foot marble floor map of Kansas, indicating each of the 105 counties, will be placed in the lobby of the visitor center, a gift of the Kansas Association of Counties.
Work on the existing wings of the building was finished before the start of the legislative session.