Scaffolding to soon surround Statehouse dome 

Statehouse repairs. (Credit: Tom Davies)

Jun 18, 2024
Key Points
  • Scaffolding could remain in place until fall 2025 atop the landmark built in the 1880s
  • Repairs and cleaning are planned for the dome's copper that was installed in 1978
  • The cleaning won't change the copper's green tint gained through years of oxidation

The copper dome atop the Indiana Statehouse will soon be encased by scaffolding for a repair-and-cleaning project that’s expected to take more than a year to complete.

A large construction crane has been in place outside the Statehouse since March as preparations for the work got underway.

But the most visible change will be taking place in the coming weeks as the scaffolding is built atop steel beams set in place around the dome’s base, said Lane Slaughter, the president of the project’s general contractor, Glenroy Construction Co.

Construction of the Statehouse was completed in 1888, with the dome’s current copper installed in 1978 ahead of a major overhaul and restoration of the building that was done during the 1980s.

Indiana Statehouse. (Credit: Tom Davies)

What work is being done?

Projects over the past several years have repaired and sealed the building’s limestone façade, windows, stairways and entryways. The dome work is part of the final phase to address the roofline and above.

Crews will be repairing the two-tier dome’s windows and sealing the limestone. They will assess the large skylights high above the building’s north and south atriums for possible repairs or replacement. Their work will stretch up to replacing the hatch for accessing the flagpole at the dome’s peak of 235 feet.

“We’re going to inspect the dome for any repairs that need to be made, you know there will be some,” Slaughter told State Affairs. “There are, believe it or not, probably some bullet holes, and there are solder repairs that have to be done. We are reflashing all around all the base of the dome, and then all around the roof, we are inspecting that for any problems, any breaches.”

Work that the public won’t see from street level includes inspecting and repairing about 20 limestone chimneys on the roof that date to when fireplaces were used for heating throughout the building.

The project won’t change the dome’s green color that’s resulted from the oxidation of the copper over the years. 

“We’re going to wash the dome roof,” Slaughter said. “We’re not going to get it looking copper color again. It’s just going to be a low pressure wash, just to get any dirt and grime off of it.”

The work is expected to represent a 30-year fix for the dome, Slaughter said.

How long will the project take to complete?

The complex work on one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks isn’t new for Indianapolis-based Glenroy Construction.

The company has taken on many of the state’s most-prominent building restoration projects.

That list includes repairs to the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis and the Victory statue atop it that were completed in 2011. It is also handling the ongoing exterior repairs to the 90-year-old State Library building adjacent to the Statehouse.

Slaughter said it took time for engineers to design the scaffolding for the dome project as they needed to account for factors such as wind loads. 

The speed of the scaffolding construction and the repair work will be weather dependent, he said. That makes it likely the scaffolding will remain around the dome into the fall of 2025.

“We need temperatures for paint and sealants and those things,” Slaughter said. “Normally, we get started back up middle of March and we’re lucky to make it to Thanksgiving.”

How much will the work cost?

The Department of Administration, which oversees the state government complex, gained State Budget Committee approval in September for $12.5 million toward the project.

Initial contracts issued totaled $4.7 million for the general contractor work and about $450,000 for engineering and design, according to the department.

More will be spent once the extent of skylight and other needed repairs are known, but the agency said it expected to remain within the overall budget.

Any impact on Statehouse workers and visitors?

No Statehouse entrances are being closed nor any interior areas blocked off by the roof and dome work.

Workers will have roof access by climbing stairs within scaffolding that’s been built just north of the main Statehouse entrance facing toward Monument Circle. 

The restricted work area outside the building includes much of a surface parking lot where the construction crane is now in place. The lot is mostly reserved for state Senate and House members when the Legislature is in session, which is expected to be January through April next year.

A final decision hasn’t been made yet on whether that crane will be removed once the scaffolding is built, Slaughter said. The cost of moving the crane and returning one next year to dismantle the scaffolding will be a factor in that determination, he said.

Tom Davies is a Statehouse reporter for State Affairs Pro Indiana. Reach him at [email protected] or on X at @TomDaviesIND.

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