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Union County Courthouse dome cupola being repaired “in place”

Repairing the cupola "in place" reduces the risk of damage.

Massive crane lifts dome cupola for repairs of supporting structure.

New Albany – Workmen repairing the dome of the Union County Courthouse are repairing the cupola atop the dome in place.

It was originally believed that the cupola, approximately 25 feet high with its gold eagle, would have to be removed completely and repaired at ground level. This would have involved considerable risk, including catastrophic damage, perhaps complete destruction, of the fragile cupola.

The contractor doing the half-million-dollar restoration of the courthouse’s copper dome discovered that the cupola was so badly damaged that it was literally in danger of being blown off the building in a heavy wind. Part of the problem seems to be the result of Union County Sheriff’s deputies in earlier years using their firearms to try killing pigeons roosting on the dome. The cupola was perforated with hundreds of holes fired from everything from handguns to shotguns in an effort to kill the  pigeons.

Resulting water damage to the wood that supports the copper shell had rotted away the flooring and supporting posts, made of wood and clad in copper. It was believed that repairing the cupola would add about $65,000 to the cost of the restoration.

A massive crane capable of lifting off the dome, estimated to weight about 2,500 pounds, was brought to the courthouse.cupola 3

Cupola-4Cupola

However it was discovered that the crane could be used to lift the cupola only a few inches, giving workmen the room needed to remove the rotted wood and install new wood in its place.  According to crane operator Casey Harris, of Saltillo, about 1,400 pounds of lift capacity was all that was needed to lift the cupola enough for the repairs to be made in place. Harris said the $475,000 machine is capable of lifting 5,000 pounds with the machine’s lift arm extended to 70 feet.

The inner posts supporting the dome were each made of two 2x4s — hundred-year-old 2x4s that were fully 2 inches by 4 inches — that were nailed together to form the 4×4 inch post. Workmen began replacing the rotted wood Thursday with modern 4×4 posts made of pressure treated timber.

New support timbers are in place. They will be clad with the original copper when the work is completed.

New support timbers are in place. They will be clad with the original copper when the work is completed.

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