Preservation project addresses exterior, interior Jesse Hall dome fixtures

Scaffolding around the Jesse Hall dome went up last spring to repair aspects affected by water damage.

By homecoming weekend, renovations to the Jesse Hall dome are expected to be completed, including replacing 96 windows, window frames, metal, repairing the roof and interior work and enhancing exterior dome lighting. The Jesse Hall Tower Restoration Project aims to preserve the exterior of the building, specifically aspects affected by water damage.

“Basically what’s happened is water was getting inside the dome and causing collateral damage in the building, so that was one issue,” Jeff Brown, senior director of Campus Facilities said. “Two, it’s continuing to deteriorate at an accelerated pace if we don’t get ahead of it.”

Throughout the years, patches have been added to temporarily repair some aspects of the dome. With this project, those patches are being stripped down back to bare material, then replaced with different materials, either stainless or galvanized metal. Once that is done the metal is then painted and primed.

Additionally, interior work includes replacing wooden ladders not up to code. However, the most time consuming repair involves replacing a portion of the slate roof, including rotten interior 1x4 boards that were affected by water damage.

“A similar project was done about 20 some years ago,” Brown said. “They didn’t go to the detail that we are with this project, so hopefully this is a 30 year, maybe 40 year, long term fix to the dome.”

While minor work such as staging began previously, scaffolding and major repairs started the Monday following commencement last spring. Before then, the process began with an architectural consultation through Majid Amirahmadi with International Architects Atelier, which turned into documents for a bidding war. Prost Builders Inc. won construction for the $2.5 million project through the bidding war, just as they did in 1996.

“When we do a project like this, we have to put out the bid, so we put together a set of drawings and specifications,” Brown said. “If you’re the low bidder and you meet all of the requirements, insurance and bonding, and you have the expertise, pretty much it’s awarded to the low bidder.”

During the construction period, Prost Builders Inc. encountered setbacks like weather delays and more metalwork than anticipated.

“That’s not a project like a house where once you get a roof on it and enclose it, then you work inside the whole time,” Brown said. “That one was 90% all exterior all the time.”

With the project, Brown aims to minimize the impact on campus operations, including instructing workers to avoid noisier tasks until nonpeak hours. However, because of the project, the southwest basement entrance to Jesse Hall has been fenced off.

Although Brown strives to minimize disruptions, some students feel affected by the scaffolding surrounding the dome.

“It was a little disappointing,” freshman Maya Morris said. “At my high school, there would be construction going on, but I wasn’t expecting it to be [going on] at college. I thought everything would be put together.”

Similarly, freshman Caitlyn Allen noticed the scaffolding once she arrived on campus during rush week, which differed from the completed dome she saw when she first toured two years ago.

“One of the first things I wanted to do when I got here was take a picture with the quad with the columns and the dome in the back,” Allen said. “I can’t do that, because it doesn't look nice.”

According to Brown, many of the key areas being revitalized could not be seen from a ground level perspective. Once completed, Brown believes few will notice the differences, especially if they never saw the dome from the roof before repairs began.

“Our goal is to make it look just like it did,” Brown said. “[For] people that went to MU or are from this area, it means a lot to them, as do the columns. Those are things that are important, that give you a sense of home. When you’re driving by the columns or the dome you want it to look just like it did.”

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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