Emergency work under way to repair Capitol annex
Work is more than halfway completed on an emergency project to repair and seal the dome of the Nevada Capitol’s historic annex.
Project manager Robbie Oxoby said the contract was issued as an emergency after last spring’s powerful rainstorms.
“There was significant penetration into the dome,” he said.
But it was a bit more complicated than just hiring a roofer since the annex built in 1906 is just as historic as the Capitol itself.
It was built as Nevada’s first state library and, initially, was home to 61,000 books and the 33,000 volumes in the law library.
Historic Preservation Consultant Michelle Schmitter said it remained the library until it simply outgrew the building in 1936. Before the 2005 remodel, it was home to a variety of state agencies including Archives, the Education Department and Nevada Magazine.
She said the annex was built by Burke Brothers Construction of Reno. It was designed to match the main Capitol just 25 feet away using sandstone from the prison quarry on Fifth Street. It’s an octagon 90 feet in diameter, three stories high and, according to Schmitter, a very good match to the Capitol.
She said according to her research, the “breezeway” connecting the rear of the Capitol to the annex was built either at the same time or shortly afterward.
In addition to Schmitter, public works called in Bill Park of Central Sierra Construction and Sparks Architect Paul Cavin to work on the project.
The $113,000 contract was issued this summer and is supposed to take just 90 days. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s three times the $35,979 cost of the original building.
Park said he’s ahead of schedule and anticipates getting everything done by the end of November before major winter storms arrive.
Oxoby said the dome is a challenge because the structure beneath the metal roof is not only original, it’s entirely made of wood.
“It’s going to leak because of the inherent construction of the building. It’s all wood, and it moves,” Oxoby said.
“Part one of the fix is to vent the dome,” Cavin said. “The dome is sealed up pretty tight and when water started coming in, it couldn’t get out. We started seeing mold and other problems.”
The damage is actually not visible from inside because it’s above the ceiling of the second floor Guinn Room, often used for meetings including by the governor’s cabinet.
Cavin, who prepared the architectural plan for the repairs, said there’s actually a lot of room up there, enough for several workmen to walk around in.
Park was called in because he worked on the annex when Central Sierra did the original remodel of the annex a dozen years ago. That project didn’t include the roof.
He said the major source of the leaks appears to be around the oculus windows on the dormers of the octagonal dome.
Despite the leaks, Park said the metal roof itself is in good shape despite being 110 years old. It’s made of terne, panels consisting of 85 percent lead and 15 percent tin.
“It’s still holding up,” he said adding the roof probably has at least 20 more years of life.
This is just the latest in a series of projects at the Capitol.
The small museum on the second floor will close this coming week for a major renovation. That project is being paid for by a donation of $750,000 to the “Battle Born” museum from the Nevada 150 Foundation. The museum will get all new exhibits and a complete modernization.
This past summer, landscapers replaced a huge area of lawn on the grounds and arborists were brought in to do some serious work on the more than 100 trees that surround the building — including the 140-year-old elms that surround the grounds.
In addition, a contractor replaced the handicapped ramp behind the Capitol that was more than 30 years old and seriously out of compliance with federal handicapped access requirements.
Still on the list is major repairs and upgrades to the exterior of the Capitol, including extensive repairs to leaking windows and damaged trim moulding, gutters and other features. There’s $1.875 million in the Public Works budget for that project.
Schmitter has also completed a historic analysis of the historic wrought iron fence that surrounds the capitol. The project to make repairs to the fence hasn’t yet been funded.