State House dome
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

After 200 years of service, a comprehensive restoration of the exterior of the State House began in September 2000. Two centuries of exposure to the environment had damaged some of the fine architectural features of building. And the shifting of surrounding land had moved granite blocks that supported the building's foundation.

The restoration includes all four major buildings of the State House complex: the red-brick Bulfinch building (1798), the yellow-brick Brigham Annex (1895), and the white marble East Wing (1914) and West Wing (1917).

Take a look behind the scenes of the project by viewing this photo tour.

State House exterior with scaffolding
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

First, 13,000 square feet of scaffolding was constructed to allow access for stone removal, roof and flashing repair, replacement of doors and windows and inspection and repair of each brick.

Besides meeting safety standards, the scaffold can support 250 pounds per square foot -- a theoretical load of over 3 million pounds for the entire structure.

State House exterior with protective scrim
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

Then the entire building was wrapped with an unprinted construction scrim to prevent falling debris. Members of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau raised $100,000 to create the printed mural, pictured here covering the front of the State House.

The mural depicts three peaks: Mt. Pemberton, Mt. Vernon, and Beacon Hill which formed the "Trimountain" that stood in this area. Starting in the 1790's two of the peaks were leveled and Beacon Hill was carved down by 50 feet to make room for the construction of the State House.

State House exterior
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

The State House's original columns were made from the trunks of pine trees from Maine, which was then a part of Massachusetts.

In an effort to protect the building from fire they were replaced with cast iron columns in the 1960s.

The tops of the columns were made from an impressive new metal in the 1790's, aluminum. As it was a new metal, no one knew that over time it would degrade.

Renovating columns
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

The aluminum used to construct the tops of the columns, the capitals, degraded over time and exposed the columns' cast iron cores to water. Each will be replaced with freshly cast new Corinthian style capitols.

Column tops before
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

Column tops after
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

Renovating balusters
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

Building stones such as marble and limestone develop a fine sandy surface called "sugaring" when exposed to acidic rain. The stone becomes pitted and deteriorates until it is like grains of sand packed together. Shown here, one of the balusters making up this balustrade has worn down to half its diameter, several others are missing.

Besides cleaning and treating the carbonite stone of the State House, deteriorated ornaments like this are being replaced. In this case, blocks of Vermont Danby marble will be cut by hand to create replacement forms.

Renovating granite staircase
Photo: Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings

Over time the ground around State House has settled, and shifted due to development. Here workers are creating a firmer foundation for the State House's ceremonial staircase, to prevent future settling.

The quarries in Quincy and Marblehead, which provided the granite for the State House, are long since closed. Workers tagged and numbered each piece of marble from these steps, so they could be reassembled as tightly as when they were first laid.

State House

After months of cleaning and restoration, many of us are eager to see the familiar face of the State House, which is scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2002.

As work continues, this site welcomes photos from agencies or individuals to add to the renovation's online record.

This online exhibit was made possibly through the support and involvement of the Massachusetts Bureau of State Office Buildings.