WEST JORDAN — A Utah company finalized a contract to play a major role in the expensive project of fixing the dome of the U.S. Capitol.
Much of the building in Washington is made of stone, but the dome itself is made of cast iron designed to look like stone. Now that dome is in need of some repairs.
"Over the years the cast iron has started to crack and break as waterproofing has failed,” said Robert Baird, vice president of Historical Arts & Casting Inc.
Decades ago, Historical Arts & Casting pioneered the art of preserving historical metal structures when it restored the iron façade of ZCMI.
Now it will take part in a major restoration project on the Capitol, which is just getting underway. The dome has more than a thousand cracks and flaws that need to be fixed.
Most repairs will be done in the building itself, but the iron pieces in the worst shape will be shipped to Utah for replacement.
“We’ll use those original parts as models to create new components that will be the exact size and shape that will go back into that building,” Baird said.
First, his workers will create a wooden pattern that matches the iron piece. The pattern is used to make a mold out of stiff, oily sand. Then, molten metal is poured into the sand mold to make the new metal piece that will go back to Washington.
“We’re pretty confident that we can get it done in two years, and certainly before the next presidential inauguration,” said Stephen Ayers, with the Architect of the U.S. Capitol.
Helping with the Capitol dome restoration is “an honor,” Baird said, but it’s one that comes with some pressure. The nation will be watching, and the repair job has to hold up for at least a century or two.
The last major renovation took place in 1959 and 1960, when the paint was stripped so the ironwork could be repaired and receive a rust inhibitor. Construction of the dome originally was completed about 150 years ago.