Lately, the dome of the Saskatchewan Legislative building has been feeling the aches and pains of old age. To turn back the clock on the 102 year old structure, a team of experts is working together to give it some much-needed tender loving care, and restore it to its original beauty and brilliant copper shine.
Over a century of changing seasons has taken its toll on this historic symbol of Saskatchewan and its capital city. The damage includes sections of stone separating from the building, discolouration from water damage, and rotting and erosion affecting sections of the limestone. Approximately 17.5 tonnes of limestone will have travelled 628 kilometres from Tyndall, Manitoba to replace the current damaged stone – that’s the weight of almost three elephants!
The dome is being restored using new copper along with its original copper, so many won’t recognize it when it’s complete. It’ll take approximately one year for the restored copper dome to oxidize to the greenish black colour many are familiar with.
The dome has not seen a magnitude of work comparable to the current restoration project since its official opening on October 12, 1912. By the time the restoration is complete, its temporary outer covering will have protected the dome from the elements for two winters, one spring, one fall, and one summer – or approximately 424 days.
Approximately 165,000 pounds of steel have been used to form the temporary structure that provides workers access to the dome during the repair. The team on this project hails from all areas of architecture, historic masonry, building conservation, construction, copper work, roofing, carpentry, and building operations.
It may look like a giant fridge to some but the 2,500 square metres of cloth cladding used to enclose the dome doesn’t act like one. The temporary structure not only protects workers from the Saskatchewan weather, it also regulates the temperature to 20 degrees to help cure the mortar used in the restoration.
“On top of being a highly challenging project, the dome rehabilitation project is the most visual project the building has faced,” Steve Bata, project sponsor said. It will take 250 workers approximately 100,000 hours to complete the dome restoration project. Every effort is being made to conserve as much of the original copper and limestone as possible, including some of the intricate ornamentation of the original masonry.
From the day it was built to 1968, visitors to the Legislative Building use to be able to climb the long and winding staircase to the top of the dome for a view of the city. Some like Don and Judy even left their mark on the dome. The area is now closed for public safety.
Did you know that any architectural structure crowning the top of a dome or roof is called a cupola? While the Legislative’s cupola lantern was originally only supposed to face one way, Saskatchewan’s first Premier Walter Scott had a vision that the city would grow to encircle the building. That’s why you’ll find a white light installed in the lantern that shines on all four sides of the building and, to this day, it’s illuminated every evening the Legislative Assembly sits.
It cost approximately $1,750,000 to build the entire Legislative Building in 1912, which is roughly $808,000,000 in today’s worth.
“The work being carried out on the Legislative dome today will be one of the great triumphs we look back on as part of our province’s history,” historian and former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Dr. Gordon L. Barnhart says. “Without the hard work of countless talented people, we would not be able to protect this prized part of our heritage.”