If you’ve been in downtown Jackson in the last two months, you’ve noticed that the scaffolding has come down from the dome, or more precisely from the cupola above the dome. This won’t be the last time we see the scaffolding: I’m told that there’s another round of work that will involve the dome itself, including re-pointing the old mortar joints and even replacing some of the terra cotta that covers the dome.
Two recent articles or posts about the New Capitol work deserve your attention. The first was a post on the Pearl River Glass Studio’s blog, “Farewell to the Mississippi State Capitol,” giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the two-year project to clean and restore the capitol’s many beautiful stained-glass windows, including the dramatic monumental windows in the grand staircase.
Seventy six windows were removed and restored. Many of the windows were double hung window sashes and included an upper and lower sash. A total of 125 individual panels of stained glass were completely restored. Each of one of the total 25,000 individual pieces of glass was cleaned and restored to its original beauty. Every person in the studio participated in some fashion in this all-encompassing project. Each window had to be taken apart. Large soaking baths were set up on production tables to minimize the dust and the windows were taken apart. Once clean and replacement glass chosen, approved and cut the windows were re-leaded with special high quality restoration lead cames. The studio craftsman included in this work were Marsh Nabors, Paul Farrar, Mikael Jury, Jon Michael Kenney, Adrienne Rippy, Joy Kichi, Lacy Barger Johnson, Rob Cooper, Patrick Johnson, Amelia Key, Peter Hammond, Bob Hudson, and Jonathan Sims.
Second, an article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of MDAH’s Mississippi History Newsletter titled, “Underneath Capitol Dome? A Second Dome!” It was written and illustrated by Lawson Newman of WFT Architects, who is overseeing the repair and restoration project that includes the recent work on the cupola among other repairs. He explains that the dome we all see is just one of two domes that make up the structural system:
In his design for the Mississippi State Capitol’s main dome, Link employed a strategy dating back to the Renaissance that utilizes what is often called a “double shell” design to solve two problems inherent to the design of large domes.
“Double shell” refers to two layers, or shells, that compose the dome, one visible from inside and one from outside. The two shells can be designed to help support each other, solving a structural challenge. The two shells also help resolve the conflict that arises from a need for different proportions on the dome’s interior and exterior. In order to achieve the height necessary for viewing from a distance, a dome should rise high above the body of the building. When viewed from inside, though, a dome proportioned for exterior viewing would appear much too high. Conversely, a dome appropriately proportioned for interior viewing would appear too short and squat on the exterior. The double shell design allows the lower shell to be properly proportioned to the interior space it covers, while the outer shell can be properly proportioned for exterior viewing.
If you haven’t been by the New Capitol in a while, make time to visit next time you’re in downtown Jackson. Pay close attention to the re-gilded eagle high atop the cupola, and once inside, look at the stunning colors of the newly cleaned and restored stained glass. There’s also an exhibit in the southern lobby space of the second floor with pictures of the dome structure, a larger version of Lawson Newman’s elevation and section of the dome, and other interesting information about the construction of the building.