The bronze statue on the top of the Missouri Capitol dome will be taken down for a makeover.
The 94-year-old sculpture last underwent cleaning and conservation in 1995 to prevent deterioration known as “bronze rot”. At the time, the upkeep was performed while the figure remained in place. This time, the statue known as Ceres is being removed for a year to repair damage from events such as lightning strikes. The statue’s restoration will cost $400,000 and is part of a $50 million renovation of the entire Capitol building that is now underway. The project began in 2017 with the refurbishment of the outside Capitol steps.
Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe said the structure, which was completed in 1917, needs maintenance to keep it functional over the long-term. “At 100 years old, I’m sure anybody who owns any kind of structure understands that at 100 years old it’s reasonable to assume that you need a little work on that structure,” said Kehoe.
The statue’s need for extensive repair work was discovered during a 2009 assessment of the building’s exterior when it was determined the entire structure would require refurbishing. A bill to issue bonds to finance the project passed the legislature in 2014 with the first bonds being sold in 2015. The sponsor of the measure was then Republican Senator Mike Parson of Bolivar. No General Revenue money which is funded by tax dollars is being used to finance the project. Its financing runs through the Capital Improvements Project and is overseen by the state Office of Administration.
Cathy Brown, the Office of Administration’s Director of Facilities Management, Design and Construction Division (FMDC) said the statue has been sitting on top of the building with an extremely loose connection for years. “It’s really more the connection that has truly failed,” said Brown. “I’m surprised, honestly, that she hasn’t come loose from the top of the Capitol.”
The statue known as Ceres is derived from the Roman goddess of agriculture. The sculpture depicts Ceres holding a bundle of grain in her left arm to signify the importance of agriculture to Missouri. In 2016, agriculture activity in the state generated $88.4 billion in sales.
Ceres is also thought to be the goddess of grain, fertility and the love a mother bears for her children.
Iowa artist Shelly Fry sculpted Ceres and is said to have based her on Audrey Munson, known as America’s First Supermodel. Munson was also a silent film actress.
The removal of Ceres from the top of the capital is expected to be a spectacle that could draw a crowd. She’ll be lifted from her perch 260 feet high by a 550-ton crane and placed onto a flatbed trailer and put on public display for two hours. The statue will then be transported to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio for its refurbishing. Missouri Capitol Commission Chairwoman Dana Rademan Miller affectionately referred to the journey as a “trip to the spa”. The statue has its own twitter handle where the public can check on its refurbishing progress
Ceres is 10 feet, four inches tall and weighs between 1,500-2,000 pounds. When she was installed, a wrench was tied to a tree and a pulley system was used to hoist it in three pieces to the top of the Capitol dome.
The sculpture is scheduled for removal on Thursday, November 15th, with a backup date of Friday, November 16th if weather is an issue. Brown said wind speeds could play a role in determining when the statue will be lifted from its perch on the building.
The capstone on top of the Capitol will also be removed, possibly in three pieces, to be refurbished as well.
In 1937, the capstone underwent repair work as it had been compromised after water penetrated into it.