AUGUSTA — Part of the copper encasing the peak of the State House dome has already been removed, but it’s not yet known what will be done with all of the 7,000 square feet of thin century-old sheathing.
The Maine Arts Commission submitted a report to the Legislative Council this week recommending five uses for the copper, including for public art pieces and selling the lower quality scrap as recycling to help offset costs of the $1.3 million dome restoration project.
Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said after Thursday’s council meeting that he would like to see the council’s facilities committee recommend doing all five options in the arts commission’s report.
The replacement of the State House copper has generated interest from people requesting mementos of the dome and from artists wanting to use it for projects. The dome was built as part of a 1909-10 expansion of the building.
When the new copper is installed, it will be shiny like a new penny, but will turn to a dull brown in around six months when the copper oxidizes, a result of exposure to atmospheric oxygen. The dome won’t regain its greenish patina for at least another three decades.
“For many of us, this will be the last chance for us to see this patina,” Berry said in the executive director’s office, pointing to one of the greenish copper pieces, “unless we keep it around for a while.”
The restoration project, which included repairs and upgrades to the 12-foot-tall Lady of Wisdom statue on top of the dome, is scheduled to be finished by November.
The council’s facilities committee could be voting on a recommendation for the old copper at its next meeting in August, according to Suzanne Gresser, acting executive director of the council. The full Legislative Council — which is made up of Democratic and Republican leaders — could then make a final decision later in the month, she said.
One of the considerations is the financial impact of some of the proposals. Some of the uses could end up bringing in more money than just selling the copper at market rate, while the sculpture and public art work options would likely cost money, Berry said.
He said he hopes to be able to break even or come close.
The report from the Maine Arts Commission described five uses for the copper: recycling it to offset project costs; melting it for an artist to create commemorative artifacts to sell to the public; selling it to jewelers or artisans in sheets for them to make small pieces to sell; selling or donating larger pieces to Maine artists or educational institutions for sculptures that can be sold or used for instructive purposes; and using it to create public artwork pieces for different locations within the State House complex or grounds.
The council at its meeting in May instructed the facilities committee to examine what to do with the copper. The plans are similar to what the Bangor Public Library did earlier this year with the old copper from its roof. The library replaced its century-old copper roof last year and auctioned off pieces of artwork made with the old metal in January.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663