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A BVH Architects Publication Foreword by Robert C. Ripley, AIA


A BVH Publication Foreword by Robert C. Ripley, AIA

Produced by Omaha Books, a division of Eventive Marketing LLC Omaha, Nebraska All Rights Reserved Copyright Š 2013 Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior consent from Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects First Edition ISBN 978-09788429-8-7 Printed in the United States of America by Taylor Specialty Books Project Director: Kristine Gerber Research: Jim Handeland, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects Matt Hansen, AIA, Office of the Capitol Commission Tom Kaspar, AIA, Office of the Capitol Commission Karen Wagner, Capitol Archivist, Office of the Capitol Commission Photography: Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects Archives Nebraska State Historical Society Archives Nicholas Goodhue Office of the Capitol Commission, Nebraska Capitol Collections Tom Kessler Photography Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. Archives Writing: Robert Fell Captions: Dan Worth, AIA, FAPT, Senior Principal, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects Design: Mark Bacon, AIA, Associate, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects Additional Support: Dan Worth, AIA, FAPT, and Katie Tauer, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects Robert C. Ripley, AIA, Capitol Administrator, Office of the Capitol Commission








History Preamble Nebraska Capitols Competition and Selection The Nebraska State Capitol Wonder Competitors Architect Commission Transition

7 9 11 13 15 18 20 22 24 26

Investigation Preamble Elements of Study Teamwork Scope Defined Consultant

29 31 33 38 41 44

The Work Preamble Precision Scaffolding Engineering Cleaning and Tuckpointing Craftsmen Tower Pressure Relief Joints Evacuation North Entrance East and West Entrances South Entrance Fifth Floor 15th Floor Buttresses and Deck 14th Observation Level and Walls Dome, Thunderbirds, and ”The Sower” “The Sower” 14 th Floor Elevator Vestibule & Turrets Tower Window Glazing Vision Copper Roofs Foresight Cost and Years

47 49 50 53 54 57 62 65 68 71 77 83 91 95 97 99 100 103 105 106 109 112 115

The Team The Team BVH Architects WJE Associates Major Contributors

119 121 122 123 125

01 | The richly ornate domed ceiling and fifth floor gallery at the Rotunda of the Nebraska State Capitol. A wonderful example of the harmonization of art and architecture found throughout the building.


Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s largest and most important work, the Nebraska State Capitol, is his greatest contribution to early 20 th century American architecture. Although he did not live to see its completion, Goodhue’s desire to design and build using the best materials and craftsmanship is well documented during his four years on the project prior to his death in 1924. An overriding sense of responsibility to preserve and restore Goodhue’s landmark building guided the project team for the Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Project. It was a 14 year (1996-2010) planning and re-construction effort. A “preservation philosophy” was initially adopted to evaluate all marginally damaged building stone and finish material for preservation repair and re-use. This preservation approach, utilizing quarry matched stone from the original construction era, assured the best stone color and texture match. Specifying the best quality design and re-construction necessitated extensive field and laboratory testing of materials and procedures to insure a quality result. Great care was given to provide damage protection for existing building materials and finishes adjacent to active construction areas. The project team of consultants, general contractor, sub-contractors and owner representatives developed a remarkably candid, forthright and open relationship. This collaboration also assured Nebraska taxpayers the full measure of their investment. Since the Capitol’s completion in 1932, this restoration project has done more to insure the future preservation of this architectural icon than any other work undertaken on the building. This effort to restore and rebuild the exterior facade of the Capitol, coupled with routine on-going maintenance, will provide protection from the elements so this great landmark can be enjoyed for many generations to come.

Robert C. Ripley, AIA , Capitol Administrator, Nebraska State Capitol 5



02 | The Tower; taken from the original 1927 construction documents.


03 | North elevation rendering of the design submitted by Bertram Goodhue of New York as part of the firm’s architectural competition entry for the Nebraska State Capitol.


Nebraskans are blessed to have a State Capitol that has been judged from its beginning as a world-class architectural achievement—an enduring monument. Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the building stands tall on the flat Nebraska landscape, towering above the Great Plains. When a new and lasting Capitol was envisioned for the state early in the 20th century, the Nebraska Capitol Commission instructed the architect who won the design competition to reflect the character of the people of Nebraska. The design is an interpretation of the state’s character, and what Goodhue created has rung true for generations. Nebraskans admire their Capitol. The ideals expressed in this landmark building have helped form the vision of Nebraska’s lawmakers and citizens from statehood through the 21st century.






HISTORY: NEBRASKA CAPITOLS The 65-year path that led to an enduring Nebraska Capitol is littered with mistakes and hasty choices.

The new structure in Lincoln was to be Nebraska’s fifth seat of government since the first territorial Capitol was occupied in Omaha in 1854. The first territorial Capitol was on Ninth Street, between Farnam and Douglas streets, in Omaha, just above the west bank of the Missouri River. It may have been Omaha’s best brick building at the time, two-stories tall and measuring a meager 75 by 33 feet. The territorial offices occupied the second floor. The second territorial Capitol, also in Omaha, was erected just three years later, atop a hill overlooking the young city that dominated Nebraska’s political landscape—the site of today’s Omaha Central High School. It was designed in the Federal style by St. Louis architect William Rumbold. While he would have placed columns on the front of the building, these were discarded for a small dome dictated by Territorial Governor Mark W. Izard, who soon could be heard to boast that he designed the entire structure. There was bitter wrangling over where the capital would be located when statehood was granted. Finally the new state legislature moved the capital to Lincoln, where a four square-block site of the upstart city was set aside for the first statehouse. By November of 1867, an ungainly building of Nebraska limestone measuring 160 by 70 feet was rising, dominated by a 120-foot-tall tower. Seven years after that, it was described as being in danger of falling down. Another State Capitol, the second on the site, was planned in 1879 and designed by Chicago architect William H. Wilcox. It was built in stages. Portions of the new building were 04 | A woodcut engraving of the first territorial Capitol of Nebraska, erected in Omaha in 1854

constructed as additions to the existing structure. By 1889 the old structure was razed and

05 | The second Nebraska territorial Capitol erected in Omaha in 1857-58.

proven itself to be far too small and haphazardly built. At the turn of the century, talk had

a new central section connected the new additions and it was judged far more attractive than its predecessor. However, just 10 years later, Nebraska’s second State Capitol had started about the need for a new grand structure to house state government.

06 | The first State Capitol of Nebraska erected in Lincoln in 1867-68. 07 | The second State Capitol of Nebraska erected in Lincoln in stages from 1879 to 1889.


08 | Rendering from Goodhue’s office of the proposed east and west entrances.

09 | Rendering from Goodhue’s office of the proposed courtyard designs.

HISTORY: COMPETITION and SELECTION An economic depression and World War would pass before Nebraska’s legislators were able to address the ever more urgent need for a new and defining Capitol. Finally, on Feb. 20, 1919, Governor Samuel McKelvie signed into law a bill that established a Capitol Commission to plan and manage construction of a new Statehouse, and provided for a new, dedicated statewide property tax to pay for it.

The new commissioners turned to one of Nebraska’s most respected architects, Thomas R. Kimball, to provide professional guidance. Kimball had himself designed what nearly a century later stands as one of the state’s landmarks, the Roman Catholic St. Cecelia’s Cathedral in Omaha, and several other admired buildings. A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kimball was president of the American Institute of Architects when the selection of an architect for the Capitol was planned. He developed the procedures for a national competition and had the stature to attract a national jury of three distinguished and independent architects to select the winning design. Kimball’s competition didn’t place many boundaries on the contesting architectural firms. The Capitol was to be “the outward sign of the character of its [Nebraska’s] people.” It was to encompass “their respect for its traditions and history, their belief in its importance and worth, and their love of its fair name.” A grassroots call for the Capitol to be a monument to World War I’s fallen Nebraskans was also expressed to the competitors. The judging by the panel of distinguished architects was blind. They selected a design that the jury said was “as free from binding decisions as it is from prejudice.” Given their description, it may not have been a surprise to them that they had chosen a man who had no academic training in architecture, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of New York. Nebraskans were immediately taken with the design. As original and appealing as it was, the Commission was doubly taken with Goodhue. He was the only entrant to have staged the construction in phases so that the state government wouldn’t have to be in rented space for the better part of a decade. He would save the state an estimated $500,000. Goodhue knew his limits. Because his working relationship with the Capitol Commission was strong, with considerable interplay, solutions were arrived at mutually and they were consistently constructive. An example: when Goodhue was struggling to find the thematic words needed for the entrance to the building, he asked for help. The Commission saw 13

that he received the advice and guidance he required from Hartley Burr Alexander, a philosophy professor at the University of Nebraska— Lincoln. But Alexander became much more than a writer of inscriptions. While he wrote the thematic wording throughout the exterior and interior of the building, he also gave voice to Nebraska’s tastes and standards in many other aspects. For example, Capitol sculptor Lee Lawrie had placed wings on the bison at the Capitol steps. Alexander protested that such art had no precedent in Indian or Plains lore, and the wings were removed. Together, Goodhue, Alexander and Lawrie share credit for the highly original Capitol exterior.

10 | Construction photograph showing the first phase of the new Nebraska State Capitol being constructed around the second State Capitol; view looking southeast.

HISTORY: THE NEBRASKA STATE CAPITOL Goodhue’s design made good use of the four-square-block site that the city of Lincoln had provided for the Capitol.

He designed a square and placed a cross within it which created four interior courtyards able to provide additional light and ventilation to building offices. At the center of the cross he placed a rotunda with an interior space soaring 112 feet. The tower reaches upward 400 feet and has working offices within it, an unusual and efficient feature. At the 14th level are four observation decks, 250 feet above the plains. They surround the Memorial Hall, an octagon placed atop the square tower as a monument to Nebraskans who have fallen in battle. Above the octagon is a drum decorated with brightly colored tiles in a thunderbird pattern. The building is topped by Lawrie’s 19-foot-tall sculpture, “The Sower,” standing atop a dome of gold tiles, representing the sun. Ground was broken for the Capitol April 15, 1922, a task performed not with turned shovels of earth, but with a team of horses pulling a prairie plow at the hand of Governor McKelvie. In December 1924, the first phase of construction was complete and the old Capitol was vacated and razed in 1925. The remainder of the 437 by 437-foot three-story base then was completed. The 400-foot tower was constructed beginning in 1928. Most of the building was complete in 1932. In the two years that followed, the grounds that surrounded the building and formed gardens within the courtyards were landscaped. Nebraska landscape architect Ernst H. Herminghaus designed the grounds and gardens in the Beaux-Arts style. The original building budget was $5 million. However, during early construction, the Capitol Commission increased the budget to $10 million. In the end, the final completed cost of the building was $9.77 million. No debt was incurred.


11 11 | Goodhue’s design called for the new building to be built on pilings supporting a modern concrete foundation system to prevent the structural issues that plagued the earlier Capitols. 12 | “The Sower” as it is being unloaded from its shipping crate and hoisted to the Capitol dome in April of 1930. Lee Lawrie designed “The Sower” and all of the sculpture of the building.


14 13 | Stone carvers tooling a capital to be placed atop columns in the north entrance Vestibule. 14 | Construction photo showing the steel tower framing emerging from the second floor. Note the Foyer and north Vestibule beyond.



of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Nebraska Capitol was voted 67th on a list of the top 150 examples of America’s favorite architecture. In 1948, a poll of 500 American architects ranked the Nebraska Capitol the “Fourth Architectural Wonder of the World.” Regardless of rank, as many as 100,000 visitors a year climb the monumental north staircase, drawn there not only because it is home to Nebraska’s elected officials, but also because it is a significant example of American art, landscape design and civic architecture.


In 2007, on the 150th anniversary

15 | Photo looking up toward the Rotunda domed tile ceiling.


Capitol a two-stage design competition was held. Three design proposals were chosen from the first stage which was open only to Nebraska architects. The second stage included the three Nebraska competitors and the designs of seven nationally recognized architectural firms.


To select an architect for the

Nebraska: Ellery L. Davis, Lincoln John Latenser & Sons, Omaha John and Alan McDonald, Omaha

National: H. Van Buren Magonigle, New York Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, New York John Russell Pope, New York Tracy and Swartwout, New York McKim, Mead, and White, New York Bliss and Faville, San Francisco Paul P. Cret and Zantzinger, Borie & Medarie, Philadelphia

16 | Nebraska State Capitol Competition entries. McKim, Mead, and White H. Van Buren Magonigle John Russell Pope


born in Connecticut in 1869. His leading contemporaries had attended Ivy League schools and studied the Beaux-Arts architectural tradition in Paris. Goodhue had no such education. Instead he began as a draftsman where his talent shone through. While his contemporaries were still in college, he was made a partner at Cram and Wentworth in Boston at the age of 22. Ralph Adam Cram became Goodhue’s principal collaborator. Cram, just six years older, became known as the most militant advocate of


Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue was

Gothic Revival architecture in the United States. In their partnership, Cram expressed theory and Goodhue translated the ideas to drawn form. 17 | Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue

Yet, the relationship was more complex because Goodhue was being pulled

As the first phase of construction was nearing an end, in 1924, Goodhue died.

in a different direction by the influence of contemporaries, including Frank

He was 55. Significant work was left to be done.

Lloyd Wright. Many architectural historians view the Nebraska Capitol as expressing the His standing among architects rose with his design of the Panama-California

transition from the Beaux-Arts style to the modernists such as Walter Gropius,

Exposition buildings in San Diego, CA, now the museums and concert halls

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Certainly, it contributed to the

of Balboa Park.

age of the skyscraper.

In 1914, he formed his own firm. He designed the Rockefeller Chapel at the

Whatever the architectural explanation, this can be said: Goodhue studied the

University of Chicago, and the National Academy of Sciences Building in

character of Nebraska’s citizens and translated it into a monument for the ages.

Washington, D.C. The Washington, D.C., commission was marked by an often stormy relationship with that city’s MacMillan Commission and it was while he was dealing with them that he submitted his competitive entry for the Nebraska State Capitol. In his entry, he stripped away many of the columns and cornices associated with the Beaux-Arts style which his contemporaries included. And such was the final choice faced by the judges: architecture based on tradition like the design of John Russell Pope of New York, or architecture based on innovation. With Goodhue, they got both. After his selection, Goodhue worked well with Nebraska’s Capitol Commissioners and their advisor, Thomas Kimball. Working together, their decisions improved the finished building, rather than compromising it.


Commission in 1919, through the passage of the Mears-Tracewell bill in the Legislature, for the purpose of creating the third and present State Capitol. Records show a Capitol Commission that was fully engaged with its architectural consultant, Thomas Kimball, and the designers and builders of Nebraska’s landmark Capitol. Members when the building took shape were: Samuel McKelvie, Governor, who served as Commission Chair George Johnson, State Engineer, who served as Commission Secretary William F. Hardy, First Congressional District Representative, a Lincoln furniture dealer


Nebraska created the Capitol

Walter Head, Second Congressional District Representative, an Omaha banker William H. Thompson, Third Congressional District Representative, a Grand Island judge Governors served two-year terms at the time the Capitol was being built, so several served as Commission Chair: Samuel McKelvie, Charles Bryan, Adam McMullen and Arthur Weaver. State Engineer George Johnson resigned during the construction and was succeeded by Roy L. Cochran. The Nebraska Capitol Commission was statutorily restructured in 2004, and is chaired by the Governor. Other new members are the Speaker of the Legislature, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Dean of the University of NebraskaLincoln College of Architecture, the Director of the Nebraska State Historical Society and three members appointed by the Governor to represent each of Nebraska’s congressional districts.

18 | Fifth floor colonnade looking toward the Rotunda.


team designed the Capitol, it was a time of transition in American architecture. Not only was the Beaux-Arts style with its obligatory domes, columns and pediments passing from fashion, but the age of structural steel-framing and electricity for building-wide light and power, were having considerable influence on building form. The steel-framed skyscraper, pioneered by New York’s Flatiron building in 1902, was at the time a relatively recent innovation. The Empire State and Chrysler buildings were yet to be designed. His selection of tiles for the golden dome, a feature he subjected to testing at his offices, remains an enduring choice. The decision to use large sheets of copper with


When Bertram Goodhue and his

soldered joints as the building roof was not as successful. Soldering

He devised a below-grade loading dock to maintain the beauty of the

repairs at seams was nearly a full-time job.

structure from every side, and it continues to be used.

His decision to designate Indiana Limestone for the building’s exterior

Goodhue was not the only architect or engineer at the Capitol who would

cladding has stood the test of time. His selection of limestone was made

find that a choice that initially appeared appropriate did not stand the

over the objections of a vocal group who wanted to use a less-costly

test of time. In the 1970s, sandblasting was used to clean the limestone

material such as brick.

building surface. Although it was common practice at the time, it was a misguided decision, destroying the original finish of the limestone

The Capitol’s foundation of horizontal reinforced concrete beams span-

surfaces and actually improving the environment for algae, mold and

ning between vertical pilings set on bedrock have stood the test of time.

other organic matter to take root.

His decisions to phase construction and to place offices in the soaring tower were innovations that helped a cost-conscious state balance its accounts. His use of extensive clerestory windows and interior courtyards for added light was a significant design success, and his designation of bronze for monumental window frames is enduring. In a nod to the presence of the recently introduced telephone, he designed floor ducts throughout the interior to carry non-electrical wires (and, today, fiber optics), a feature that has helped keep the building modern and functional.

19 | North façade of the Nebraska State Capitol as taken from Centennial Mall. 27



20 | Repelling was a technique used during the 1995 investigation to provide close-up inspection of the dome and drum of the Capitol.


21 | Another technique to provide close-up inspections was the use of swing stages on all tower facades.


In 1995, Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects (BVH), a Nebraska firm with offices in Lincoln and Omaha, was selected to evaluate the deteriorating condition of the Capitol’s exterior and recommend corrective actions. The BVH team included Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) of Chicago as consultants and corroborators in the endeavor. Problems had begun to develop with the Capitol limestone even before the building was complete. Archives contain letters between the Capitol Commission and the Goodhue Associates regarding cracks as early as 1929. In the 1940s, the first remedial repairs were made to the building’s exterior. Again in the 1960s and in 1973, cracks had been patched and the surface sandblasted. However, there had been no extensive study of the underlying cause of the various cracks and leaks.






22 | BVH developed a computer model of the entire Capitol during the investigation phase. This drawing of the north elevation denotes the terminology used during the project to identify the various components of the building.

INVESTIGATION: ELEMENTS OF STUDY The elements under study and analysis by BVH and WJE, top to bottom, included these findings:

The dome The tiles of the dome were mostly in good shape, with a few hairline cracks in some of them. However, expansion joints were failing and water was beginning to enter the building through them. The drum and the octagon that the drum and dome sit upon Where the drum and the dome intersect, significant problems were identified. Cracks had developed as movements were unequal because of the properties of the different materials. The four turrets and the 14th floor observation decks The walls of the observation decks were beginning to expand and lean. Many cracks had developed in the limestone that was backed by clay brick and infiltrating water was causing expansion. The four turrets, similarly, had cracks that allowed large amounts of water to infiltrate the underlying material. The tower exterior At least 400 spalls—pits in the limestone surface of the tower—were observed. Thousands of cracks in the blocks were mapped, and hundreds more cracks in mortar between the blocks were identified. A study of cracks recorded during previous patching and those existing in 1995, provided evidence that the cracking was accelerating. Algae and micro-organisms had taken root across the surface of the building causing unsightly dark streaks to appear. The fifth floor exterior decks The underlying masonry substrate was often wet and deteriorating. Transepts roofs and the quadrants roofs There are approximately 2.5 acres of copper roof on the Capitol. Some of the copper sheets used in construction were exceptionally large, and heat and cold induced movements that caused buckling and other damage. Sandbags were being used to hold down a portion of the east side of the southeast quadrant roof because the roof fasteners had failed or were missing. 33

23, 24 | The WJE Difficult Access Team provided close-up inspections of deterioration of the dome tiles and thunderbird mosaic drum.

The two-story base of the building above the terrace The problems here were an echo of the tower problems. There were multiple cracks, mortar that was separating, and algae, mold and mildew were growing. Interior courtyard walls manifested the same problems as the exterior walls. The base of the building below the terrace There were fewer problems at the base of the building. Goodhue had specified pilings on bedrock linked together with reinforced concrete beams that formed a firm and enduring base for the massive weight of the building. The four entrances At the north entrance, the striking carved limestone bison wing walls were out of alignment and stone was cracking. Stairs were leaking, and water was not draining properly from the steps. The arches at the east and west ends of the porte cochere at the ground floor north entrance, and the limestone parapet walls that top them, included displaced and misaligned stones. On the west arch, the keystone had a significant crack. At the south entrance, the stairway leading to the promenade deck had displaced granite treads and limestone walls. Four retaining walls flanking two service drives were leaning noticeably, particularly within the first 27 feet nearest the building. Clay brick backing the limestone blocks on the staircase walls had swelled, pushing stones out of alignment. Water was not draining properly from beneath the stair treads. At the west entrance, the seven limestone blocks forming the arch above the entrance were all so severely cracked that they required replacement. At the east entrance, the staircases leading to the promenade deck were deteriorating, with granite stair treads out of alignment. The railing wall and the seven arch stones below it were all in need of repair, or in the case of the arch, needed replacement. There were more than 9,000 cracks and fractures; 6,300 cracked stones, 1,500 mortar cracks, and 1,200 blocks of limestone that had portions that had broken away (spalls and delaminations). Using original drawings and computer software, every stone was numbered and deficiencies were listed where they occurred, stone by stone. Invasive studies were conducted, removing the outer Indiana limestone, or copper roofing, to view the condition of underlying materials and the extent of water leakage. 35


25, 26 | Organic growth was widespread over the limestone exterior of the Capitol including the tower and the base of the building. The 1970s sandblasting campaign produced an environment that helped the algae flourish. 27 | Close up photo of one of the hundreds of spalls in the Indiana Limestone faรงade. Rusting and expanding ferrous metal anchors caused the limestone to crack and fall away.


28 | Vertical cracks in the tower faรงade were attempted to be patched in the mid-1970s by smearing an epoxy compound over the crack. Determining what caused the cracking was one of the biggest issues of the restoration project that lead to the reconstruction of the pressure relieving joints at seven floor levels of the tower.




Dan Worth, Senior Principal in charge of the Nebraska State Capitol restoration project for Bahr Vermeer Haecker, Architects (BVH) used that expression to sum up the teamwork experienced by participants. Historical preservation has been Worth’s life work since the Nebraska native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate completed his architectural studies – including a year of special study of restoration in London. Prior to Worth’s role at the head of the restoration, BVH had conducted several architectural projects on behalf of the Nebraska Capitol. BVH was a natural choice because of its long history with the building.


“Everything clicked.”

It was evident to Worth that forensic engineering was needed to determine why the face of the structure was deteriorating at an accelerated pace. “It is an overused phrase, but the Capitol was at a tipping point,” Worth recalls. BVH chose to partner with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. because, Worth said, “We wanted a world-class expert involved in the forensics for a world-class structure.” While Worth oversaw the project, the day-to-day duties for 10 years fell to Jim Handeland of BVH. As Handeland eased into retirement, he was succeeded the final three years of the project by Dennis Klawonn, who had himself been the Nebraska State Architect prior to enjoying a private-sector career in architecture. Worth ranks the Nebraska Capitol high on his list of favorite buildings, noting that it “represents the State and our culture in a remarkable way.” “Like successful art of any kind, every time you visit you come away with a new insight,” he said.

29 | Dan Worth, AIA, FAPT, (left) was the BVH team’s project manager. He is inspecting the tower restoration work with the state’s project administrator Mike Rindone (center) and Curt Fulton, Mark 1 Restoration’s foreman (right).


30 | Charles DeVries, Capitol staff, making an inspection opening in the 14th floor observation level faรงade. Inspection openings allowed the project team to examine and confirm the underlying conditions of the exterior wall systems. 31 | The mortar used in the construction of the Capitol was extremely hard and tenacious. This photo shows a stone removed from the Capitol faรงade. The mortar was stronger than the brick back-up, consequently pulling off the face of the brick while removing the stone.



INVESTIGATION: SCOPE DEFINED Through the detailed inspection, testing, research and analysis by BVH and WJE, both the scope of the problems was quantified and the causes defined.

A report prepared by BVH and WJE on the exterior condition of the Capitol, the Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Structural Repair and Restoration Project report, was submitted to the State of Nebraska Department of Administrative Services (DAS), State Building Division in June 1996. From this initial study and report was crafted a plan of action that would restore the condition of the Capitol and assure it of many additional decades of performance. The plan for the exterior restoration of the Nebraska State Capitol, developed by BVH and WJE, along with the DAS State Building Division, was enthusiastically embraced by the Nebraska Unicameral, funded, and set into motion in July 1997. In October 1998, Mark I Restoration Company of Dolton, Illinois, was awarded the contract to complete the first three phases of the Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Project. The initial phases carried the work through 2002. Over 12 years, a five-phase program devised by BVH and WJE was carried out: Phase 1: Restore the north entrance, the main approach to the Capitol. Phase 2: Restore the tower, dome and drum. Perform conservation and stabilization of “The Sower” atop the dome. Phase 3: Restore the tower and the four turrets at the 14th floor level. Perhaps most important for the future of the building, redesign pressure relief joints at each floor level. The face of the tower required tuckpointing, crack repair, damaged stone replacement, cleaning, replacing glass and re-glazing windows. Phase 4: Replace the copper roofing. Phase 5: Restore the building base. Just as there had been no celebration when the Capitol was finally completed in 1932, there was no widespread notice beyond informing the Legislature when the monumental task of preparing one of the world’s architectural treasures for another century of service was complete. The pages that follow show how Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. planned and supervised this historic preservation. 41

32 | Computer generated drawing of an interior courtyard façade. Every stone was inspected and the drawings indicate the type of distress such as cracks, spalls, staining and displacement. 33 | An example of the field notes generated by the BVH/WJE inspection team. This information was entered into the CAD drawing database. 34 | Extensive archival research was performed by the BVH/WJE team as part of the investigation phase of the project. The Nebraska State Capitol archive contains a wealth of information on the design and construction of the Capitol, including original design drawings from Goodhue’s office, along with the construction documents and correspondence between the architect, owner and contractors. This information was invaluable to the project team throughout the restoration process.





Stephen J. Kelley, the lead consultant on the Nebraska Capitol project and a principal of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) of Chicago. The restoration process for the Capitol employed the conservation approach, which Kelley sees as to “only intervene if it will make the building last.” For Kelley, the project lasted 14 years, not 12, because he led the two-year diagnostic work that resulted in the Nebraska Legislature authorizing the restoration. “This was a pinnacle project in my career,” recalls Kelley.“The whole team bought into the compelling story of the Nebraska Capitol, the idea that the pioneers set out to


“Preservation is a process,” says

build something greater than themselves. And they did.” “It never left our sight that this building is the product of pioneers who were the grandfathers of Nebraska,” he said. Kelley was “hands on” in assessing conditions on the Capitol exterior, and his WJE associate Tim Crowe helped lead the process on the site in Lincoln from beginning to end. One of the key diagnoses was to identify the composition of the mortar that was used and to prescribe an enduring replacement. Tests revealed the exceptional hardness of the mortar, a well-intentioned decision by the original builders which would add to the stress on the face of the structure. That mortar was ground out of the cracks between stones and replaced with a better choice. “It was clear from the start that the client, contractor and architectural firms were not looking for the quick fix but the right fix,” he said.

35 | Steve Kelley of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. atop the Capitol dome next to “The Sower.” 45



36 | The entire tower and dome, including “The Sower,” were covered in scaffolding during the first two phases of restoration work. This view is looking east along Lincoln Mall at the west façade.


37 | Panoramic view of the north entrance as the stairs and bison walls are being restored. Complete disassembly and reassembly of the stairs and bison walls was part of the restoration work that took place at this building element.


The investigation and analysis by Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. pinpointed the causes of the 9,000 cracks and fractures that had developed in the Capitol’s exterior limestone and mortar, and pointed to solutions. The cause of most of them was ineffective pressure relief joints caused by a decision to bond the limestone facing to the clay brick backing using a mortar that was stronger than the limestone itself. When pressure occurred, something had to give, and it was the limestone that was failing under the stress. The Nebraska Capitol’s tower was designed relatively early in the history of skyscrapers. Although Goodhue consulted with H. G. Balcom, who later engineered New York’s Empire State Building, neither may then have fully understood the stresses borne by a limestone-on-steel structure. The 1995 study team found corrugated lead pressure relief joints had been placed in the limestone at each floor level of the tower, but the joints did not extend through the brick backing. They studied the mortar used and found it extremely hard and tenacious. They examined the roofs and pavers used on the balconies and decks and found other choices made by the Capitol’s original design team that were not surviving the test of time. Among the most important was the choice of clay bricks to back the limestone. Throughout the building, moisture was causing the clay to expand and push the limestone

out of alignment. Infiltrating moisture, broken and missing fasteners, and corroding drains were also threatening the building’s interior. Some evidence of leaks didn’t need to be discovered by detective work. When the wind blew rain during a storm, water from deteriorating roofs was leaked into the legislative chamber. Armed with this new understanding of both the growing damage that was occurring and a comprehensive solution, BVH and WJE developed alternative scenarios and projected costs. The scenarios ranged from five to 12 years in length. Informed of the urgent need for action in 1998, the Nebraska Legislature almost unanimously embraced an eight-year plan enthusiastically. Governor Ben Nelson signed on to the legislation and Governors Mike Johanns and Dave Heineman continued to approve the annual appropriations, albeit in amounts too small to complete the project in eight years, due to state economic conditions. A nationwide search for a contractor to perform the estimated $8 million in restoration work on the Capitol was conducted with unusual detail. Candidates’ past projects were visited coast to coast and evaluated. Finalists were required to visit the Capitol and grind out mortar to fully understand the difficulty of the task they were being invited to perform.


and outside—Bertram Goodhue infused his architecture with the arts. Goodhue and artisans who assisted him incorporated a very rich array of symbols. All of the creative team’s intentions are captured in drawings that have been stored and cared for in the Capitol archives. Goodhue employed a team of gifted architectural draftsmen who drew the details of the design, including the walls, arches,


Throughout the Capitol—inside

domes, balconies and courtyards of the building. Quarry records detail every stone that was cut and fabricated for the Capitol facade. Part of the legacy


of the Nebraska State Capitol Exterior Restoration Project was to use the original construction stone shop drawings to develop a computerized (CAD) database. The database provided a background on which architects could map every crack, mortar separation and spall. Repairs that had been made on hundreds of the cracked stones in previous years were mapped as well, allowing the planning team to calculate the growing pace of deterioration that was occurring. The original Capitol drawings are a form of artwork of their own, conveying the commitment to excellence of the creative team who developed a structure that has become a monument for the ages.


40 38 | Detail of the northwest corner of the north pavilion. 39 | Detail of the north Capitol entrance. 40 | Detail of the bison wall at the north entrance stairs.





THE WORK: SCAFFOLDING Rappelling gear, swing stages, rolling scaffolding and binoculars are a few of the tools used by architects and engineers examining the Capitol exterior.

To assess the dome’s condition, a trained observer examined each of the ceramic tiles while rappelling. His harness was attached to the Capitol beneath the feet of “The Sower.” Swing stages were hung off the sides of the building to examine the tower. At the base, a rolling scaffold was employed. When it became time for the winning contractor, Mark 1 Restoration Company, to begin to restore the tower, that company devised an innovative system of scaffolding which would become part of the Lincoln skyline for three years. Instead of fully surrounding the Capitol tower with scaffolding, they elected to build a 13-story scaffold at each of the four corners. Swing stages—movable devices associated with window washing on tall buildings—were used to support workers in the areas between the fixed corner scaffold. This innovation saved millions of dollars in scaffold rentals and was a factor in awarding the work to Mark 1 Restoration. Above the 14th floor, fixed scaffolding fully surrounded the octagonal Memorial Hall, the tower drum and the dome. Because that scaffolding was in place, the sculpture atop the Capitol—“The Sower”—was evaluated, cleaned and refinished. This meant extending the scaffolding another 50 feet skyward.

41, 42, 43 | As part of the innovative scaffolding system design, tower scaffolding was positioned at each of the corners of the tower, with access stairs at opposite corners. Swing stage platform scaffolding was also used on all four facades of the tower. This scheme saved millions of dollars over the restoration period.


he wanted to include a 400-foot tower—a skyscraper—as part of the Nebraska State Capitol, not many architects and engineers were certain of the most durable methods of building them. In New York, where Goodhue had located his firm, the trend-setting Flatiron building had been completed for a few years, but such landmarks as the Chrysler building and the Empire State Building were, as yet, not designed. One fact architects and engineers knew that the general public may not know is that over time the steel frame of a skyscraper shortens. The use of a steel framed tower was not Goodhue’s first choice. He preferred a design where the


While Bertram Goodhue knew

stones bore the weight; however, engineers advised him such a tall structure would not endure using that method. Once committed to a steel frame with an Indiana limestone face, he did consult the leading engineer at that time, H. G. Balcom, who would later engineer the Empire State Building. The two agreed on how to place the clay brick backing for the limestone surface, yet for reasons not known, expansion joints placed in the tower limestone to allow for steel shortening and weather-induced expansion and contraction were not extended through the clay brick backing. When the decision was made to bond the clay bricks to the limestone using mortar harder than either the brick backing or the stone facing—no doubt in an effort to build the strongest building possible—cracking of the limestone was set in action.

44 | A 1928 construction photo of the Nebraska State Capitol looking southeast.







45, 46, 47 | Various techniques for cleaning the limestone faรงade were investigated to kill and remove organic growth. Tests samples were performed and viewed under high power magnification to ascertain the effectiveness along with evaluating the impact upon the stone surface.

THE WORK: CLEANING and TUCKPOINTING While cracks and breaks along mortar lines had been noticed in the Capitol exterior as early as the late 1920s, the first general repairs were not undertaken until the early 1940s.

More surface patching was done in the 1960s and again in the mid-1970s. Now, through the 1995 examination, the cause of these cracks and spalls was identified. With a solution identified that would prevent further cracking, a more comprehensive program of limestone repair, along with the investment it required, could be justified. The entire Capitol was tuckpointed, a difficult task because the joints were filled with a mortar mixture that had become very hard. Nevertheless, every joint was ground out and re-filled with a new mortar mix that is softer, still matches the color of the Capitol exterior, and is able to move with the natural expansion and contraction of the wall. At the same time, the hundreds of cracks in the limestone blocks were repaired. To close many of them, small holes were drilled a few inches apart along cracks and small tubes were inserted to inject epoxy until it began to ooze out along the crack. Then the tubes were cut at the surface. This technique both reattached the stone pieces and removed the tendency for water to be wicked into the small cracks. A second technique used when many of the stones didn’t lend themselves to epoxy mending was Dutchman repairs. Some spalls, for example, exposed iron pins and anchors used in original construction. In these areas, Dutchman repair meant cutting out a piece of the limestone and replacing it with an all-new matching piece of Indiana stone which was bonded using epoxy. A regrettable decision to sandblast the Capitol in the 1970s facilitated the growth of organic materials. While it was well-intentioned, sandblasting the limestone destroyed the original finish of it, causing a pitted surface. The tiny pits caused by the process trapped moisture and provided water that the organic material needed to grow. Removing the organic material was a two-step process. First, the algae, mold and mildew was killed. To do this, a biocide treatment was administered. It was a simple process that began with power washing; then saw the application of biocide with a scrub brush, and finally used the power washer to rinse away the solution. 57

With the organic material killed, the actual cleaning could take place. Two similar methods were employed on the upper and lower parts of the building. First a French-pioneered technique was used called “Facade Gommage,” which translates to “erase facade.” The patented technique employed low pressure to apply a dry mineral-based micro-abrasive, the consistency of talcum powder. This removed the algae and lessened the pitting of the stone, returning the surface to something closer to the original texture. Later, another patented system called the ROTEC VORTEX Cleaning System by Quintek was used. It similarly used low pressure air and a micro-abrasive powder. Tower restoration began in 1998 and workers moved downward, tuckpointing and cleaning the building, until the base was completed in 2002.

48 | Workers tuckpointing an upper wall area of an interior courtyard.

01 | Apelles sum esedi dolorerit eni omnis alignam num laborru ntemolorest, 02 | Apelles sum esedi dolorerit eni omnis alignam num laborru ntemolorest,

49 | As part of the restoration work, all the stone mortar joints were carefully ground out and tuckpointed. Over 22 miles of joints were replaced during the restoration.


50, 51, 52, 53 | A preservation approach was taken to save and reuse as many cracked and damaged stones as possible during the restoration project. This sequence shows a stonemason performing a repair to a stone by doweling and epoxying a stone back together prior to reinstallation into the wall.






56 54, 55, 56 | An epoxy injection technique was utilized to repair hundreds of cracked stones in the Capitol walls. This sequence of photos shows a mason injecting epoxy into a stone, allowing repairs to be made economically without the need to remove and replace stones.



stored, Don Seefeldt, vice president and project manager for Mark 1 Restoration, had spent more than half of his professional life on the 12-year project. Seefeldt, like Nebraska native Mike Breen who spent nine years on the project, six of them as superintendent, counts the restoration project in Lincoln as an enduring highlight of his career. Breen oversaw the work of nearly 40 restorers during part of the work on the tower, and almost 100 over the life of the project. “The building’s historical significance made it a privilege to work on, and there aren’t a lot of resto-


When the Capitol had been re-

ration projects that continue over 12 years,” Seefeldt said. “But the reason the project is memorable 57 | Don Seefeldt, vice president of Mark 1 Restoration Company, the restoration contractor for the Nebraska State Capitol.

is the tremendous teamwork among the owner, the architects and the contractor. Every decision was based on what was best for the Capitol.” “Seeing teamwork continue consistently for a 12-year project is virtually unheard of,” Seefeldt said. Mark 1 has restored such landmarks as Chicago’s Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, and the Kansas State Capitol. A third individual, Lou Perschke, Mark 1’s initial superintendent who retired during the course of the project, was a key member of the early collaboration, Seefeldt said. Sequencing and reorganizing the work to maximize efficiency and minimize cost was one of the contributions made by the Mark 1 Restoration team. Another was carrying out the decision to only enclose the corners of the tower with scaffolding while designing special swing stages to bridge the space between. The invention was a major engineering challenge, but it saved millions of dollars over other proposals. “Without a doubt, the project was one of the most unique that our company was ever involved with, and it was a textbook example of owner-architect-contractor cooperation,” Seefeldt said.

58 | A stone mason tools the beveled rusticated joints of replacement stones at the west entrance.



59 59 | Typical repair detail for pressure relief joints at the Capitol taken from restoration construction documents. 60 | Detail of a pressure relief joint at the tower after repairs have been made, prior to reinstallation of the limestone.

THE WORK: TOWER PRESSURE RELIEF JOINTS An analysis of the tower’s construction showed that cracks and spalls (parts of limestone facing breaking away) were caused by unrelieved pressure on the limestone, and by expansion of rusting steel anchoring straps.

The steel frame of tall buildings shrinks over time. To allow for the shrinking steel frame, pressure relief joints ring the Capitol tower at each floor. However, original building methods employed by the architect and contractor made the joints inoperable from the time of the initial construction. Pressure relief joints in the limestone face of the building were not extended through the clay brick backing. Also, very hard mortar was used to affix the limestone to the brick backing. When the frame of the building contracted over time, something had to give, and it was the limestone. During construction, courses of limestone facing were placed on steel shelves that were attached to the building at each floor line. At the seven floor levels on the central tower where expansion joints had been originally built in the limestone facade, craftsmen removed three courses of stone and the clay brick backing, setting them on the scaffold for easy retrieval. The original pressure relief joints were rebuilt by extending the pressure relief joint through the brick backing. Weather protection was added in the form of lead flashing, a compressible rubber joint backer, and sealant on the face of the improved pressure relief joint. The rusted steel anchor straps that tie the limestone to the building frame were replaced with bronze straps that would not be subject to rust or expansion, should moisture again penetrate the tower face.



61 | The pressure relief joints were repaired at seven floors of the Capitol tower. This photo shows where stones had been removed and temporary covers installed prior to repairs being completed. 62 | Masons removed three courses of stone, two above and one below, at the pressure relief joint in order to make the necessary repairs.


63, 64, 65, 66 | Restoration work being completed at pressure relief joints. Work included priming and painting of structural steel spandrels, installation of lead flashings, bronze pins and straps, and the reinstallation of stone and expansion joint materials.






high-rise office tower have said they treasure the the quiet atmosphere and stunning views. When pneumatic hammers began



of limestone to revise the pressure relief joint system throughout the tower, workers quickly reversed their opinion of their work environment. It shook. It was noisy. Some of the tools’ sounds approached levels that federal officials associate with hearing loss. It was decided to close the tower temporarily and use the opportunity to make interior repairs on several levels where renovation had never been conducted.


Many workers in the Capitol’s

Some of the renovation involved plaster and paint repair. Other activities were more critical. For fire suppression, Goodhue specified there to be two large water tanks at the top of the building in a space above the Memorial Hall and beneath the Capitol’s golden dome. Upon the urging of the State Fire Marshal, a fire sprinkler system was installed. With the tower work completed, office workers were returned from their temporary offices in other parts of the Capitol, or locations in downtown Lincoln. Once again, the Capitol tower is prime office space.

67 | Restoration work underway at the tower.






THE WORK: NORTH ENTRANCE The restoration work on the Capitol began at the north entrance, the one commonly used by visitors. At the time of the 1995 inspection, the approach to the main entrance to the Capitol was still impressive. Yet there was also another impression: that cleaning and repair was badly needed.

The walls framing the staircase were clearly taking on moisture. Limestone blocks were moving out of alignment. The granite steps had lost their mortar bed and their support was eroding. In response to the BVH/WJE study, wing walls exhibiting Lee Lawrie’s distinguished buffalo sculptures were dismantled and the clay brick backing was removed. Each stone was marked as to location so that it would be returned correctly. New concrete backing was poured in place and the stones were re-installed using new bronze pins and strap anchors. Sheet lead flashing was installed and weep holes were included to eliminate water buildup. The stair treads were removed and the concrete substrate was repaired. Waterproofing material was laid and the granite treads were reinstalled. Throughout the Capitol where stones displaying sculpture or inscriptions had been damaged, special efforts were made to keep the original carving intact. Bronze dowels or pins and strap anchors were installed to hold stones bearing carving together. As in other parts of the building, epoxy was used to repair the stone and seal out water. 68 | Workmen carefully disassemble the granite steps at the north entrance stairs. 69 | Each piece of stone was catalogued and carefully stored while repairs to the structure were made. 70 | The original soft and deteriorated brick masonry core walls were removed and new concrete walls were constructed at the bison walls.

The porte cochere at the north entrance is bracketed by parapet walls above arches on the east and west sides. Both parapet walls were disassembled and rebuilt. A new limestone keystone was quarried, cut and installed on the west arch, because it was so badly cracked. The restoration included new waterproofing on the deck surface adjacent to the parapet walls, and copper counterflashing at both walls as a further protection against water damage. Beneath joints in the capstones, edge-to-edge copper flashing was installed.

71 | Deteriorated concrete was removed and new concrete treads were poured at the north stairs.


72 | Section detail of the north entry stairs from the restoration construction drawings.




73, 74 | Workmen carefully reinstall the bison wall stones and granite treads over the new concrete structure at the north entrance.

75 | Detail of a restored bison wall at the north entrance.





76, 77, 78 | The east and west entrances of the Capitol suffered from severe water infiltration and significant deterioration from freeze-thaw action. De-icing salts spread on the stairs and decks were leaching through the entrance assembly and were deposited at the underside of the concrete stair structure forming stalactites and efflorescence at the limestone walls.

THE WORK: EAST and WEST ENTRANCES The cycle of the Great Plains’ four seasons had exacted a heavy toll on the building’s east and west entrances.

There was extensive new stonework to be completed. Restorers knew that the secret of extending the life of the repairs would be to decrease the damage caused by water infiltration. As at the north entrance, the process began with dismantling the granite stairs and limestone railing, salvaging as many of the original stones as possible. When stones were beyond repair, new ones were cut at the Indiana site where the original building limestone was quarried. Because the quarry was still in operation and the vein of buff limestone which Goodhue specified had not been exhausted, a close match was found. Once a waterproof membrane was installed atop the foundation of the granite stair treads, some re-engineering was undertaken to remove water from beneath the granite walking surface. Small channels were formed in the concrete beneath the granite to allow water that leaked behind the steps to escape through an internal storm drain system. The walls that flanked each staircase had been damaged by moisture buildup, just as at the other entrances. Each stone was removed, marked for reinstallation, and cleaned. Then, using new poured concrete for backing, each stone was locked in place at its original location using bronze pins and strap anchors. Above the entrances, water had infiltrated all seven arch stones and caused them to crack. The old stones were trucked to the Indiana quarry so that exact copies could be cut. New stones were quarried, cut and installed.


79 | At both the east and west entrances, the seven large “L� shaped limestone arch stones had cracked due to freeze-thaw action and required replacement.




80, 81, 82 | The east and west entrance stair walls and treads were reconstructed using reinforced concrete substructures. New Indiana limestone arch stones were cut to match the original cracked stone units and set back into the entry arches. Once the entrances were reassembled, new waterproof membrane was applied over the stair and landing structures to prevent moisture penetration.



83, 84 | Once installed, the new limestone arch joints were tooled to match the existing heavily rusticated joints of the adjoining stones.


85 | View of the restored east Capitol entrance.



86 | The restoration of the south Capitol entrance required the removal of some extremely large granite slabs. Special cranes were required to carefully lift these heavy stones to allow the stairs and retaining walls to be demolished and reconstructed.

THE WORK: SOUTH ENTRANCE The south entrance to the Capitol showed damage equal to the other entrances; however, there was far more to repair there than on the east or west entrances.

Two ramps descend from the street level to the Capitol basement on the south side of the building. They are a Goodhue innovation that facilitates deliveries to a loading dock while allowing the building to be viewed from all sides without visual distraction. Twenty-seven feet of the limestone-clad retaining walls closest to the building were leaning and had deteriorated. To restore them, concrete walls were poured on both sides of the ramps near the loading dock. Then, a system of steel tie rods were bored through the ground between the ramps and anchored to prevent the walls from moving outward. Finally, the walls were re-faced with the limestone blocks that had been removed. A pair of staircases on the south side led from ground level to a promenade that circles the building just below the second level. The staircases were reconstructed using poured-inplace concrete for both the stairs and the interior of the adjacent walls. As at other entrances, an internal trench drain system and waterproof membrane was installed to remove water should it enter the area behind the granite treads. Between the poured steps and the granite treads, a waterproof barrier was installed. The limestone blocks that had been removed were reinstalled or replaced. Helping to finance the Capitol restoration was a $500,000 grant from Save America’s Treasures, a program of the National Park Service. The grant was specifically for restoration of the south entrance.

87 | View of the east service ramp under reconstruction.



88, 89 | Similar to the east and west entrances, the south entrance stairs were severely deteriorated and were carefully disassembled and reconstructed utilizing a new reinforced concrete substructure. 89


90, 91 | Sections of the retaining walls leading to the basement loading dock required reconstruction. These photographs show the concrete formwork and resulting new concrete retaining wall at the east ramp. 91


92 | A cross section drawing detail of the south entrance taken from the BVH/WJE restoration construction documents. The view is looking north towards the arched entrances to the basement loading dock. Shaded areas denote the extensive areas of work required to the retaining wall and stair systems.



93, 94, 95 | After the new concrete retaining walls and stair structures were constructed, the original limestone units, granite stair treads and landings were reinstalled. 94


96 | View of the restored south Capitol entrance.

96 89



97, 98, 99 | The fifth floor balconies also required extensive reconstruction due to water infiltration and resulting deterioration. This required careful disassembly of the balcony walls that included carved limestone figures. 100 | The fifth floor balcony walls contain engaged sculptural figures designed by Lee Lawrie. Under the balconies are large arched clerestory windows which bring light into the five-story Rotunda space.


THE WORK: FIFTH FLOOR The fifth floor balconies form a portion of the Capitol roof. At this level, quarry tiles were set in concrete above what was intended to be a watertight roof.

Following BVH/WJE plans, restoration included more than cleaning and re-installing existing materials. New solutions were developed and applied to remove long-standing problems. To begin, the pavers were removed and the walls of the parapets were disassembled. Clay brick that backed the parapet walls was replaced with more durable concrete bricks. Where stucco had been used to surface the balcony parapets, bricks were used to replace it. The original quarry tile pavers on the balcony deck were replaced with a different roof system. New quarry tile was fused to concrete forming roofing pavers and then reinstalled on plastic supports over a waterproof membrane. By using this newer technique, water drains away quickly, and future generations can easily remove the tiles and access the balcony deck structure to make repairs, should it ever become necessary.

100 91



101, 102 | Workmen are shown constructing the formwork and placing of concrete into the forms for the new roof paver system. This system successfully gave the historical appearance of the original design with the benefits of giving the Capitol staff access to make future roof repairs easily. 103, 104 | The soft and absorbent clay brick cores of the parapet walls were removed and replaced with new concrete masonry cores. The limestone veneer was then reinstalled. 103


105 | View of a restored fifth floor balcony.

105 93



108 106, 107, 108 | When masons cut the mortar joints of the stones at the 15th floor buttresses they almost fell out of the faรงade. No anchoring system had been installed from the stones to the backup materials. 109 | Special lifting devices were designed to hoist the buttress stones to allow the restoration work to be completed. This photo shows one of the rigs ready to move stones onto the scaffolding.

THE WORK: 15 TH FLOOR BUTTRESSES and DECK In 1995, inspectors had detected no serious problems with the eight buttresses that extend from the 15th floor deck upward to delineate the thunderbird murals, ending at the base of the dome.

However, when workers erected scaffold around the exterior of the Memorial Hall in the summer of 2000, they found stones that were significantly displaced—one was 1 ½ inches out of alignment. The threat of stones falling away was so severe that most other tasks were suspended and workers were assigned to complete restoration on the buttresses before winter. A small opening was made in each buttress by removing limestone blocks. Then, clay brick was removed from the interior and replaced with concrete brick. Bronze straps were added to tie the sides of each buttress together, preventing future displacement of the limestone blocks. Finally, each buttress was tuckpointed. While the octagon clerestory window frames are made of durable bronze, the glazing was in need of restoration, and broken glass was in need of replacement. New glass was manufactured specifically to match Capitol samples taken from the Memorial Hall. While the texture varied slightly from the original 5/16-inch-thick glass, the glass factory, Uroboros Glass of Portland, Oregon, produced a near-perfect color match. While many of the unbroken glass window panes were cleaned and reinstalled, enough replacement glass was produced to replace all 504 panels in the octagon should it ever be needed. Finally, the limestone above the 14th floor was cleaned of algae. This included the exterior of the “tank room,” a space containing two large water tanks, intended for fire suppression, above the Memorial Hall.






THE WORK: 14TH OBSERVATION LEVEL and WALLS Visitors to the Nebraska Capitol’s public observation decks take one of two tower elevators that reach to the 14th floor. After visitors exit the small elevators, they are presented with an eagle’s view of Lincoln and the far-reaching Plains.

The 1995 examination team found the observation decks on each of the Capitol’s four sides to be in fair condition. The walls were leaning, because water was infiltrating the clay brick backing and some limestone was cracked. Restorers closed the observation decks while work was underway. Stones were evaluated and either cleaned of the clay brick backing and returned to their original location, or replaced. Repair of the stones was the preferred method, and epoxy injections salvaged many of them. The eight-sided Memorial Hall forms the center of the 14th level, and it is surrounded by the observation decks. The surface of the four observation decks that surround the Memorial Hall were replaced with quarry tile pavers before being reopened for public use.

110, 111, 112 | Deteriorated quarry tile was removed from the observation level deck and new concrete roofing pavers were installed over a new waterproof membrane. This was the same type of system installed at the fifth floor balconies and gives the historic appearance along with ease of maintenance. 97

114 113, 114 | Scaffolding was extended around “The Sower� allowing the sculpture to be inspected and restored. 115 | A detail of the Thunderbird-themed tile panel below the dome prior to restoration.


THE WORK: DOME, THUNDERBIRDS, and “THE SOWER� The golden appearance of the Capitol dome and the bright blue, red and yellow colors of the thunderbird patterns that decorate the drum beneath it are achieved by using colored tiles.

Most of the tiles were found to be in good condition, they just needed decades of grime and mineral deposits removed. The restoration work principally consisted of washing the colored tiles with detergent while using a soft brush. An examination of the tile grout showed it to be in fair condition. It was determined that it would be best to regrout all joints. Where bands of steel were used as an arched structure to hold the shape of the dome beneath the tiles, expansion joints had been installed. These joints were in need of repair. The area that caused the restoration team greater concern was where the tiles came in contact with the limestone used to frame the top of the drum. Here, the differing movement of the dome tiles and the limestone was causing some of the tiles to break. The solution: the workers ground out the joints between the stone and tile, and replaced the mortar with material that would allow expansion and contraction without further damage to the tiles.

115 99

ton bronze sculpture by Lee Lawrie that was placed atop the Capitol dome in 1930, had been silently casting grain across the Great Plains for more than eight decades and weathering was beginning to show. Mayda G. Jensen, who led a team to restore the sculpture, said she treasures her time spent with “The Sower” and its 13-feet bronze base. Her satisfaction comes from a combination of recognizing the dynamic nature of the sculpture itself, experiencing the challenges of working 400 feet above the ground, and being aware of the high visibility of the sculpture to


“The Sower,” a 19-foot-tall, nine-

Nebraskans. 116

For two months, she and her team

(made up of her husband Rob, Jeremy McManis and Les Bruning) rode elevators and climbed to the 50-foot extension of scaffolding that circled the monumental sculpture. On occasion, buffeting winds or passing thunderstorms would drive them off the scaffold. The team inspected the sculpture’s interior structure and found it sound. Then, they gently cleaned the bronze, reapplied an even layer of patina, and coated it with a lacquer sealant and paste wax. “While we thought it would be solitary work,” Mayda said, “we actually found we had many visitors—as many as 250—as people climbed up to have their photos taken with “The Sower” far above the Plains. The sculpture restoration was not included in original plans for the Capitol restoration; however, it became clear that the presence of the scaffold would provide an opportunity that might not occur again for decades. Grants totaling $30,000 from Save Outdoor Sculptures, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution supported in part by the Target Foundation, and matching funds from the State Department of Administrative Services, Building Division, funded restoration which was not included in the original scope of the project. 117 116 | Conservator Mayda Jensen at work restoring the surface of “The Sower.” 117 | A detail of the “The Sower” atop the dome after restoration.





THE WORK: 14TH FLOOR ELEVATOR VESTIBULE TURRETS As the square tower of the Capitol rises past the floor of the octagonal Memorial Hall, four turrets top its corners.

Very large stones, some weighing nearly a ton, are shaped to form the tops of the decorative turrets.

118 | Detail of a turret prior to restoration. 119 | Installation of sheet lead flashings at a turrent. 120 | Replacing the turret cap stone after reassembly of the turret. 121 | View looking down from the Tank Room/15th floor level over the top of the restored northeast turret.

Joints between these stones were the source of considerable leaking. The mortar between the turret stones had cracked allowing water to enter the clay brick backing. As water entered through the cracks, swelling of the backing had occurred, pushing some of the stones out of alignment. Despite their weight, each of the stones were removed from the four turrets, swung onto the 250-foot-high scaffolding, and stored there while a new base was prepared for them. Deteriorated copper sheeting was removed and replaced with lead sheeting. Stones were then returned, tied together with bronze pins and strap anchors to maintain positions.






THE WORK: TOWER WINDOW GLAZING From a distance, the tower windows provide much of the vertical thrust of the tower designed by Bertram Goodhue.

Rows of clear glass are set in operable bronze frames. To maintain the uninterrupted vertical lines, black Cararra glass is installed over the building floor structure. Decorative arches and diagonal muntins can be seen upon closer inspection. These are created by “false muntins,” metal rods attached to the window frames. The restoration team heard office workers’ reports of whistling sounds as air passed through weatherstripping that had been added to the windows. They saw window putty, cracked glass and muntins hanging partially detached from the frame. During the restoration project, a program was completed that included replacing broken window glass, reglazing the windows and reattaching the muntins. The glass selected was “Krystal Klear,” a ¼-inch-thick iron-free product.

122, 123, 124 | Close-up details of the bronze tower windows during restoration showing deteriorated sealants, cracked glazing and damaged muntins.


125 | A bronze window drawing detail taken from the BVH/ WJE restoration construction documents.


younger man, he walked past the Nebraska Capitol each day, observing and admiring the story it told. Tompkins majored in English literature at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln and his father was an architect, factors that helped him develop an interest in the building and its symbolism. After establishing Palace Glass Co. in his native Lincoln in 1981, he formed a long-term relationship with the architects who manage the building and are tasked with its preservation. Palace Glass is a regional specialist in stained, etched, beveled and kiln glass; and the Capitol uses several types of art glass in light fixtures as well as windows.


When Harry Tompkins was a

Unable to find a manufacturer for the glass that is used in the clerestory windows of the Memorial Hall, Capitol architects asked Tompkins to take on the task of having new glass manufactured to replace the many panes that had broken over the years. Accepting the challenge, he located Uroboros Glass of Portland, Oregon, and enlisted that firm to take on the task of producing the specialized thick, textured amber panes as part of the Capitol Masonry Restoration Project. “For me, the Capitol is a unique piece of art, and with my dad an architect, I feel it is important to preserve it,” he said. “You don’t see many buildings with meaningful symbols for an agriculture-based state.” “It is important to maintain what we have from the past,” Tompkins said, “because eventually we all become the past.”

126 | Panoramic view up the tower façade.



THE WORK: COPPER ROOFS Copper is excellent roofing material for a monumental building, but it requires careful engineering and precise installation for it to live up to its potential to last 80 to 100 years. From 2007 to 2010, the copper roof of the Nebraska Capitol—comprising a total of 2.5 acres—was not only replaced, but the roofing system itself was re-engineered to assure a century-long life.

Originally, poured gypsum formed the base structure for the roof. Today’s system is built on two-inch by four-inch treated boards with rigid insulation between them. Plywood decking is placed on the sleepers to form a solid foundation for the new copper roof. Two systems lay atop the plywood decking. First, there is a layer of rubber membrane that serves as an ice and water shield. It is topped by a layer of 20-ounce copper which overlays the full roof. Architects found that the 70 existing roof drains were not able to adequately drain the roof so they added 52 more. At some locations they found the roof lacked the slope needed 128

to adequately direct the runoff to the drains, so they built shallow rises called crickets to redirect the flow. Inside the Capitol, flexible connections were installed on pipes underneath the drains to accommodate movement caused by heat and cold. When the original Capitol roof was completed in the 1930s, the ratio of copper soldered seam to batten seam roof system was approximately ten to one. When the restoration project was completed the copper roof system on the building was converted from predominately a solder seam condition to largely a batten roof system by a factor of two to one. On roof sections with low slope, solder seam construction was used. On steeper roof slopes, a system of batten construction was installed. Raised battens every 20 inches running


continuously down slope, had long copper pans installed between them (without solder seams) providing a roof surface with far fewer solder joints, greatly reducing potential leaks.

127 | The roof plan taken from the BVH/WJE restoration construction documents. 128, 129 | Prior to restoration sandbags were used to hold down sections of the old copper roof to prevent the copper from lifting during high winds. Roof drains were also severely deteriorated necessitating total replacement as part of the roof restoration scope.

To assure a roof capable of providing excellent performance, a program was put in place to maintain the highest possible standards of soldering. Candidates to perform the work were required to prove their expertise before being hired. From time to time, an inspector would cut out a section of soldered seam and inspect it under a microscope.






130 | Workers installing treated wood “sleepers� allowing rigid insulation to be added to the roof assembly. 131 | All flat seems were formed and soldered by craftsmen whose work was of the highest quality. 132 | A view of the Northwest quadrant during installation of the copper batten roof system at the high slope roof areas. 133 | Detail of the high quality details and workmanship found throughout the Capitol roof restoration. 134 | An example of the copper batten roof system used on the high slope roof areas and the flat soldered seam copper roof system used on the lower slope roof areas.



the Capitol Commission to buy all of the copper roofing in advance proved a boon to the project’s budget. As the roofing work progressed, the price of copper soared. Thus, when the scrap copper from the old roof was sold, it brought an impressive price. The funds from the recycled copper were applied to the cost of the project budget. In all, the new copper roofing system for the Capitol cost approximately $11 million.


A decisive step by restorers and

135 | View looking down over the east entrance pavilion and northeast and southeast quadrants. The new copper roof began to patinate soon after installation, changing color from the shiny factory finish to the dull bronze color it is today. Eventually the roof will turn the greenish copper color that characterized the roof for decades.


136 | View of the restored Capitol looking southeast.

THE WORK: COST and YEARS In 1932 dollars, the Nebraska State Capitol, minus landscaping and a few incomplete items, cost just under $9.8 million.

The Nebraska Constitution forbids the State to go into debt, therefore a special tax was levied on real property for funding the project. Adjusted for inflation, the $9.8 million in 1932 dollars was equivalent to $252 million 80 years later; however, such a simple calculation would be highly misleading. For example, in the 1920s the cost for labor amounted to about 30 percent of a project’s cost. Today, the figure would be 50 to 60 percent. Also, stone cutters were plentiful in the 1920s; the few available today would command top wages. The Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Project was performed on budget at $57.4 million. The Nebraska Legislature appropriated the funds in biennial budgets over the 12-year period it took to complete the project.




137 | Watercolor of the Nebraska State Capitol by Gary Bowen, FAIA, BVH Architects.



139 139 | Several of the project consultant/owner/contractor team members. Back row, from left: Jim Handeland, Mike Breen, Mike Rindone and Tom Kaspar. Front row, from left: Tim Crowe, Mark Snedden, Lou Perschke, Don Seefeldt and Matt Hansen. 140 | On the right, Bob Ripley, AIA, Capitol Administrator, Nebraska State Capitol, inspecting work at the east entrance.


The major Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Project participants were: Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects of Lincoln and Omaha, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois. They assessed the scope of the project, developed solutions, specified activities to be performed and materials to be used, scheduled the activities and oversaw the completion of the contracts.




Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects was founded in 1968. Their award-winning work is recognized for exceptional design inspired by place, and for a focused commitment to client relationships. BVH is comprised of employees with a diverse skill set. This attribute enables the practice to address a wide range of challenges, demanding budgets and time constraints, unique sites, guidance of the public process, re-purposing or preservation of existing structures and the complexities of new construction. Their portfolio of work ranges from personal

Jim Berg, AIA

Sr. Principal

Paul Jeffrey, AIA

Sr. Principal

John Sinovic, AIA

Sr. Principal

Dan Spiry, AIA

Sr. Principal

ings. Inherent in each project regardless of the scale is a solution that responds to the

Dan Worth, AIA, FAPT Sr. Principal

particular circumstances and client needs. BVH’s mission of design excellence is strength-

Gary Bowen, FAIA


George Haecker, AIA


Gill Peace, AIA


Pam Schoonover


Stephan Clymer, AIA

Assoc. Principal

Dennis Coudriet, AIA

Assoc. Principal

Mike Daily, AIA

Assoc. Principal

Cleve Reeves, AIA

Assoc. Principal

residences, historic preservation and restaurants to academic, civic and corporate build-

ened by a commitment to client relationships. They actively engage clients in the design process, encouraging them to be a voice during the process. Each voice is heard, ensuring a meaningful response to their project. Through this proven collaboration, the process of designing and constructing a building is a rewarding experience. Green building design and sustainability have long been an integral part of BVH’s core values. BVH is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and has LEED® accredited professionals on staff who are able to guide clients in decision making that will facilitate the building to achieve a LEED® rating.


Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE) was founded in 1956 on the principle that delivering better solutions requires a better understanding of the problem. Since its beginning, WJE has brought a hands-on technical approach, comprehensive testing capabilities, and an enthusiasm for problem-solving to more than 70,000 projects. WJE has extended the life of countless buildings and structures and has improved the profession’s understanding of how building structures, systems and materials perform or fail. After a half-century of solving design and construction related problems, WJE is proud of its contributions in solving problems for clients around the world and in working on some of the world’s most interesting structural, architectural and materials challenges.




140 | Joshua Freedland, architectural conservator with WJE. 141 | Jim Handeland of BVH Architects.


142 | Jason Aspin, roofing specialist with WJE (front center), and the project team inspecting mock-ups of copper gutter and drain system prior to installation.


The State of Nebraska. From 1998 through June 30, 2004, Mike Rindone with Department of Administrative Services, State Building Division was project administrator. From 2004 through completion of the project, Robert Ripley, Capitol Administrator, oversaw all work on behalf of the State. Thomas Kaspar was Owner’s Architect Representative throughout the 12-year project. Mark 1 Restoration Company of Dolton, Illinois, was the General Contractor for the project. Midland Engineering of South Bend, Indiana, installed 2 ½ acres of new copper roof on the Capitol. Alvine Engineering of Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, designed the plumbing for the roof drains. Indiana Limestone Company of Oolitic, Indiana, supplied replacement stones matching the Capitol. Safway of Omaha, Nebraska, provided and erected scaffolding. U S Heritage Group, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, supplied the custom ready-to-use mortar mix for the Capitol restoration Thomann-Hanry of New York and Paris, France, was one of the firms performing microabrasive cleaning of the tower. Jensen Conservation of Omaha, Nebraska. Mayda G. Jensen, funded by a Save Outdoor Sculpture grant including support from Target Stores and the Smithsonian Institution, inspected, cleaned and reapplied patina to Lee Lawrie’s 19-feet-tall bronze sculpture, “The Sower,” and the 13-feet-tall bronze base. Though not formally part of the Nebraska State Capitol Masonry Restoration Project, by extending the scaffolding an additional 50 feet skyward, the sculpture was restored at dramatically reduced cost. Wellman Plumbing, Inc. of Lincoln, Nebraska, installed roof drains and associated plumbing. Husker Glass of Lincoln, Nebraska, performed tower window reglazing. Uroboros Glass of Portland, Oregon, fabricated custom glass to match color and texture of original glass used in the Memorial Hall at the 14th level of the State Capitol. Weathercraft Roofing of Lincoln, Nebraska, performed a portion of the building weatherproofing.






The Nebraska State Capitol is the result of a nation-

The Nebraska State Capitol is the result of a nation-

wide design competition won by New York Architect

wide design competition won by New York Architect

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1920. The choice of

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1920. The choice of

Goodhue was daring and dramatic, and his design

Goodhue was daring and dramatic, and his design

was certainly innovative. The building was the na-

was certainly innovative. The building was the na-

tion’s first statehouse design to radically depart from

tion’s first statehouse design to radically depart from

the prototypical classical form of the nation’s Capitol.

the prototypical classical form of the nation’s Capitol.

Constructed in four phases over ten years from 1922-

Constructed in four phases over ten years from 1922-

1932, the building, with furnishings and landscaping,

1932, the building, with furnishings and landscaping,

was completed at a cost just under the $10 million

was completed at a cost just under the $10 million

budget and was paid for when finished. As many

budget and was paid for when finished. As many

as 100,000 visitors a year climb the monumental

as 100,000 visitors a year climb the monumental

north staircase; drawn there not only because it is

north staircase; drawn there not only because it is

home to Nebraska’s Unicameral, but also because

home to Nebraska’s Unicameral, but also because

it is internationally significant as an example of civic

it is internationally significant as an example of civic

architecture, harmony of the arts and landscape

architecture, harmony of the arts and landscape



Restoring A Landmark documents the 14-year effort

Restoring A Landmark documents the 14-year effort

to preserve and restore the exterior of the Nebraska

to preserve and restore the exterior of the Nebraska

State Capitol. The project team of the owner, ar-

State Capitol. The project team of the owner, ar-

chitects, consultants, contractors and craftsmen

chitects, consultants, contractors and craftsmen

reflect on their role in the re-construction work.

reflect on their role in the re-construction work.

Photographic images and architectural drawings

Photographic images and architectural drawings

highlight the original construction of the Capitol

highlight the original construction of the Capitol

and capture the extensive work done to restore and

and capture the extensive work done to restore and

preserve this great landmark for many generations

preserve this great landmark for many generations

to come. This book serves as both a record of the

to come. This book serves as both a record of the

restoration process and a visual commentary on

restoration process and a visual commentary on

the level of stewardship that will insure the future

the level of stewardship that will insure the future

preservation of this icon.

preservation of this icon. US $29.95

US $29.95

The Nebraska State Capitol: Restoring A Landmark  

Documenting the 14-year process to preserve and restore the iconic state monument.

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