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Inspection shows W.Va. Capitol dome faring well

Charleston Gazette file photo
Charleston Gazette file photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An inspection of the Capitol dome found “selected pitting and abrasion of the gilded finish,” which engineers speculate may be caused by dirt particles hitting the dome during wind gusts, and not by pyrotechnics that struck the dome during last year’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The report by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects concludes that areas of lost gilding are minimal, and that paint coatings underneath remain intact, and does not recommend any touch-up gilding at this time. It was released Tuesday by the Department of Administration.

Joe Mullins, the Charleston sculptor and artist who first raised issues about possible damage to the dome from the fireworks strikes, said Tuesday he was skeptical of the findings.

“If they conclude the gilding could be damaged by wind-blown dust particles in 50 mph gusts, I would think that with 100 mph and 3,000- to 5,000-degree pyrotechnics, the logical conclusion would be perhaps they could cause damage as well,” he said.

As a sculptor who frequently works with gold gilding, Mullins raised concerns after the three nights of fireworks shows commemorating the state’s 150th birthday, warning that pyrotechnics hitting the dome could have damaged the tissue-paper thin gild.

In response, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin moved up a scheduled 10-year inspection of the dome by Swanke Hayden Connell, the company that oversaw the 2005 restoration and regilding of the Capitol dome, by about 18 months…

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