SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Don’t be surprised if you visit Springfield soon and see the Old State Capitol with no flag on the dome. A helicopter removed the flagpole Monday morning to help construction crews complete a two-year renovation of the historic building.
The old flagpole will be replaced with an automated flagpole once work on the dome is complete. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said the decision was due to the safety of employees responsible for raising and lowering the flag on a daily basis.
“It’s quite a long journey to get to the top of the building from the inside via multiple flights of stairs and ladders,” said Troy Gilmore, deputy site manager for Illinois State Historic Sites.
A FairLifts helicopter from Kennesaw, Georgia traveled all the way to Springfield to help raise the flagpole to allow for modifications to the dome’s cap. The state is using $2.5 million in funds from the Rebuild Illinois plan to paint, repair some roof leaks, and replace the tops of Corinthian columns.
The building at 526 E. Adams Street served as the Illinois Capitol from 1840 to 1876. Illinois leaders began building what is now the State Capitol in 1869. Gilmore said the state took over the property during the civil rights era after it served as the Sangamon County Courthouse for 90 years.
Sangamon County officials had drastically altered the building over time, raising the property 11 feet higher than it stands today using hand-cranked jacks and crib timbers. Gilmore noted that the Old State Capitol was three stories tall until the state took over the property and crews dismantled the building to restore its 1840s appearance.
“A lot of what the project is doing now is fixing a lot of things that just broke in the last 52 years,” Gilmore said.
He said the state anticipates the automated flagpole could be delayed due to supply chain issues. However, Gilmore hopes it will be ready in a few months.
The Old State Capitol closed in spring 2021 for a $1.6 million restoration project. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reopened doors for public tours on October 7, 2021. While crews spent time plastering and painting in 2021, there are two new areas for tourists to explore. The Educational Gallery features 10 historical artifacts that originally belonged to the building. People of all ages can also enjoy a new video room with a short feature explaining the importance of the Old State Capitol.
Fortunately, the building remains open to the public during the exterior renovations. Gilmore said he’s excited about the future of the property.
“It’s not just about the historical structure, it’s also about the people who worked here,” Gilmore said. “So we want to make sure we have the opportunity for people to see this building and learn more about the people who have been working in this place for a long time.”
The painting teams will try to finish their work on the dome while the weather is warmer this week. Gilmore said there are also plans to have new bathrooms and elevators in the Old State Capitol before big school tours come through Springfield in the spring. He noted that these projects have not been done since the 1960s.
Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.