By Carla Charter
Preservation of the Vermont Statehouse Dome has begun with the removal of the 14 feet tall statue of Ceres which sat atop the Vermont Statehouse Dome.
The original sculpture known as Agriculture was dated to 1868 and was created by Larkin Mead. It was made out of wood which had rotted and needed to be replaced. According to Vermont State Curator David Schutz, there are photos of the original statue taken at a distance and taken of the pieces of the statue after she had been taken down.
In 1938, the second wooden statue, which became known as Ceres, was created. The statues head was carved by the Sargent at Arms, 83-year -old Dwight Dwinell who used the head of the first sculpture as his model and did his best to replicate it. Two maintenance workers created and carved the body.
This second statue was the one which was recently removed. “We are preserving her by retiring her because she too is showing signs of rot. The hope is that once she dries out she will find a new home at the Vermont History Museum which is two doors east of the Statehouse.”
A Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued this week to create a third wooden statue, which is hoped to last another 80 to 100 years. “We hope it will look more like the original, a replica of Larkin Mead’s Agriculture.” Schutz said. ”This statue will be wooden as well because to do a real preservation, preserving the original material is important.” The RFP can be viewed at the Department of Building and General Services through the State of Vermont.
Removing and replacing the sculpture, Schutz continued, is a small part of a two-million-dollar preservation project of the Vermont Statehouse Dome being overseen by Engelberth Construction of Burlington, Vermont.
The repairs being done will include making the dome weathertight. “It leaks and we will plug the leaks,” Schutz said. The original 1858 copper, which makes the statehouse dome one of the oldest roofs in Vermont, will remain. “We will repaint the drum section, which is where the windows are located below the dome, and the dome will be re-gilded with several layers of 23.75 karat gold leaf,” Shutz continued. The project is expected to be completed by November 2018.
The Statehouse itself is almost 160 years old and was built in the renaissance revival style. “It was made to look more like the renaissance buildings. To this end the dome was originally red in the 19th century, to look like red tile in the renaissance style,” Shutz said.
A book about the history of the Vermont Statehouse, Intimate Grandeur, written by Nancy Graff and David Schutz can be purchased at vtstatehouse.org. The statehouse is open to visitors from 8-4:30 except for state holidays and weekends. During the summer the statehouse is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. 3 p.m.