By Kevyn Collier-Roberts
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
If you take a personal tour of Michigan’s capital building, you’ll notice the loud sounds of heavy machinery amongst the usually quiet hallways inside. These sounds are sounds of renovation and restoration.
Michigan State’s Capital building is currently receiving major construction to the many layers of the ceiling that surrounds the monumental cast iron dome.
Robert Blackshaw, the Director of Facility Operations, described the issues that were causing the ceiling’s layers to collapse.
“In the ground floor corridor, which is probably where you entered by the tour guide’s area, the ceilings are being restored and repaired,” Blackshaw said.
“About 25 years ago those were repaired and the plaster and the paint had some fine cracking in them so we’re instead of just making some superficial repairs, we decided to take all the plaster off back to the brick coats and then replace them back with the three coats of plaster and a lime wash, and then they’ll be repainted to give it back its integrity,” said Blackshaw. “The preservation of that will hopefully let the repair last a lot longer, so we don’t have to repair it for the next 20 to 30 years.”
Constructor worker Tony McClendon had a different opinion as to what he thought the cause was for the destruction of the ceiling layers.
“Because the building is historic, I think the problem is just caused by time. As years have gone by the plaster has begun to separate,” said McClendon.
Weathering of paint cannot be avoided but proper maintenance is helpful in ensuring that the building’s detail is constantly up to par.
According to a Michigan State Capital brochure, preservation maintenance is one the ideal responsibilities of the staff members working in Michigan’s capital building. In order for the building to preserve its originality, it is up to each staff member to properly maintain the state of the details along the hallways for the next 100 years.
“Our inspections and our annual maintenance are pivotal,” said Blackshaw.
Blackshaw was unable to disclose the amount of costs for the current renovations but did reveal the company hired to complete the project: Christman Constructors, Inc.
Noel Bird, the Director of Plaster, is the head constructor in charge over this project.
“We are reattaching the framework that has separated above the ornamental ceilings in the hallways. We’re using a sculpt camera to put it up in the ceiling to locate the intersecting frame members and reattaching them with minimal intrusion into the historic ceiling,” said Bird.
Preserving the original appearance of the details in the paintings is the main focus for Bird and his team. Although swift completion is advised, making sure the details within the paint are authentic and fascinating is more important.
Bird revealed that temper paint is a huge component used to get the job done.
“It’s called temper paint and it’s a very old paint that is a lime-based paint. The artists then have to mix them in order to make their own colors that match the colors already used along the walls,” said Bird. “After the colors are mixed, the artists then hand paint the art detail that is missing from the installation of screws in the framework.”
The renovation process has been timely but successful. Bird said the construction finished mid-March.