The golden eagle perched atop the Capitol Dome is one of the many pieces of the current remodeling project.
The golden eagle perched atop the Capitol Dome is one of the many pieces of the current remodeling project.
JACKSON - A $6.9 million facelift is under way at the state Capitol and Madison engineer Andy Covington is one of many trying to preserve the historical elements during the renovation.

Covington, a consulting electrical engineer who owns The Power Source in Madison, said he has learned more about the Capitol building then he thought existed since taking on the job.

"We walked the building inside and out, up and down," he said. "We went below the eagle at the very top and saw the lighting there on the inside of the dome. We walked in some places in that building I didn't know even existed."

For this phase of restoration, Covington and crew focused on exterior lighting while having to work around older building processes. Exterior cast bronze light fixtures and copper globe lights have been removed for restoration by an Alabama-based company and that allowed for new wiring.

"There were some challenges in routing the circuitry," he explained. "We wanted to reuse all the existing conduit that we could because we don't want any exposed circuitry to run through the building spaces where the public can see it."

He added, "And that building was constructed will all kinds of nooks and crannies over the place."

Covington explained that lighting fixtures have electronic components that have to be mounted somewhere. So, they found closets on the inside of both chambers that led out onto the porches.

They encountered copper pipes used as conduits that were very small, which he said was unique.

"I've never seen it done anywhere," he said. "I don't know whether the wire was purchased this way or whether someone did it when they built it. They did it so they could bend the conduit easily but it doesn't meet current code requirements."

That was another obstacle to overcome because they had to find a way to run the wires without exposing them.

The Power Source has also done some work on the inside of the Capitol for power distribution and plan on doing more as renovations move to the inside.

This is the first time in 30 years extensive repair work has been done on the Capitol building, Sherri Hilton, director of communications for the Department of Finance and Administration that is administering the project, said.

Crews have been busy building scaffolding that will envelop the 110-year-old building over the next two years in a project aimed at improving the Capitol's water tightness.

Leaks in the domes have caused stains and rust on the inside chambers. Roof work, including repair of damaged terra cotta on the main dome will take place.

"Leaks are common in buildings with complicated roofs like the Capitol," Kevin Upchurch, DFA executive director, said. "Over the years, we have been conducting small repairs, but the entire Capitol, including the dome, has not undergone a complete renovation in nearly three decades, since the 1980s."

He added, "Fixing the problems and stopping any leaking are absolutely necessary to preserving this magnificent landmark and ensuring that it can last another 110 years."

In addition to the electrical and roof work, general maintenance will take place over the two-year project. A thorough cleaning of the exterior, as well as replacing broken wooden windows and stained glass will also take place.

The signature golden eagle perched on top of the Capitol dome will also be repaired and re-gilded.

Officials expect the work, which will take place in multiple phases, to be completed by late-2016.