The Old Capitol building to be regilded in summer 2022

The Old Capitol building’s identifiable gold dome will be coated in a new layer of gold in the summer of 2022 after the leafing began to flake off. The project will cost an estimated $505,000 and be completed before the fall semester begins.


Ayrton Breckenridge

The Old Capitol Dome is seen on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. Bids for the Old Capitol’s gold leaf dome to be redone will be accepted on Feb. 8 and will cost an estimated $505,000.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The Old Capitol Building, standing proudly at the heart of the Pentacrest on the University of Iowa campus, will be regilded with new gold leafing on its dome this coming summer, sporting a half-million dollar price tag.

The last time the dome saw a new layer of gold leafing was in 2003. The entire dome had to be replaced in 2001 after a fire destroyed it and the cupola — the structure underneath the dome — while contractors were working up in the dome trying to remove paint.

“An important moment in the Old Capitol’s history was 2001, when we suffered the fire that destroyed the cupola and dome and forced the reconstruction of the cupola and dome and thus the gilding that was done off-site,” Rod Lehnertz, UI senior vice president for finance and operations, said.

The gilding lasted less time than expected, Lehnertz said.

“We would typically expect to see a lifespan that would be more like 30 years and sometimes as long as 40,” Lehnertz said. “It’s just about [at] 20 years of life, which is shorter than we would expect, and that just tells us we need to make sure in moving forward and in doing the work on-site that it is done correctly.”

Currently, there is some wear on the gold dome that is causing the gold leafing to come off, Lehnertz said. The wear is especially prevalent on the north and northwest face of the dome, which is the side that endures more of the direct wind and weather in the Midwest.

“There’s a difference when you look at the dome from the south and when you look at it from the north, but we have been monitoring its condition and appearance and recognize that it is really arguably the most historic building in the state of Iowa,” Lehnertz said.

The UI partnered with OPN architects on a study of why the gold dome was delaminating so early. The study took a few months, Lehnertz said, as the firm had to do site investigations. The report of the findings sent out by OPN recommends the UI to add a new layering of goldleafing to the dome.

OPN estimated the project of reguilding the dome would be more than $500,000.

The university wants to finish the project this year, during the UI’s 175th anniversary, he added.

“At a time when we are, in this year, celebrating the 175th year of the University of Iowa since its founding, [we] find it a right time to not let the delaminating of the of the gold dome of the gilding continue and fix it for the long term,” Lehnertz said.

Related: UI to purchase remainder of the Old Capitol Town Center in 2025

Lehnertz said he hopes the preparation scaffolding will be finished by May so graduating students and families can still enjoy the Old Capitol building as it stands today.

“We would ideally like to clear graduation in the spring so that students and parents that are celebrating graduation from the University of Iowa have an opportunity to take photographs in front of the Old Capitol as a celebration for the end of their time at the University of Iowa,” he said. “It’s not a specific requirement to get the work done, but it is an objective of ours.”

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Wendy Moorehead, UI assistant director of facilities management and head of facilities’ strategic communications, wrote the project will be completed by the Fall of 2022.

“Work is planned to start [at the] end of May, after Spring 2022 commencement, and will be complete before Fall 2022 semester,” she wrote.

Lehnertz said the project will be take bids on Feb. 8. Because it is a unique project, the UI will receive bids from contractors that do specific exterior gilding work and will take the lowest responsive bidder, he said.

Overall, the regilding of the dome stems from efforts to keep the Old Capitol looking as pristine as possible and well-kept for people who visit campus and those who are considering becoming Hawkeyes, Lehnertz said.

“We want it to look its best and we want it certainly to look its best at important times in history, like the 175th celebration of our university,” he said. “[It’s] a building that means a great deal to the state and to the community and certainly to the university and so, at the heart of the campus, its appearance and how it represents the university is a priority of ours.”