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Iowa’s Old Capital dome to undergo more renovations

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 11:05 a.m. CDT

IOWA CITY (AP) — The University of Iowa plans to spend $1.5 million to renovate the Old Capital dome, which has already been destroyed in a fire and then reconstructed.

The school will renovate the iconic building’s roof and cupola.

University spokesman Tom Moore said the college has been monitoring the building’s condition and wants to take preventive action now so it doesn’t have to spend more money later.

Moore said repair work will include exterior finishes for the cupola. Other areas of concern include the building’s metal roofing and portions of the dome’s interior.

“Right now we’re in the stage where we’re investigating our options, working with the designers and contractors,” Moore said.

The Old Capital was built in 1842 and was used by lawmakers. It became the university’s first permanent building in 1857 after the Legislature moved to Des Moines.

A fire ripped through the cupola and dome in November 2001, causing significant water, soot and smoke damage throughout the building and ruining the upper tower.

Investigators said the blaze started when workers used open flame torches and heat guns to remove asbestos.

The university in 2004 settled a lawsuit against the contractor for $1.9 million, about a third of the estimated $5.6 million in damage.

A new dome was placed on the top of the Old Capital in February 2003. The building remained closed to the public until restoration work was complete in 2006.

“It’s a historic structure, and the rebuilt section is outside, it’s open to the elements, so no matter what, it’s going to take wear and tear just like a general house does,” said Shalla Wilson Ashworth, director of the university’s Pentacrest museums.

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