The Finishing Touch

Jefferson County
Courthouse cupola goes up

New structure is updated with
new materials, atomic clock, carillon

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(November 2010) – The exterior of the Jefferson County Courthouse is closer to its normal, pre-fire appearance with the addition of a new cupola. It was erected atop the courthouse on Oct. 26-27.

Jefferson County Courthouse

Photo by Darrel Taylor

Workers from Campbellsville
Industires in late Oct. delivered
the cupola in sections to Madison,
then put it together before
hoisting it onto the roof of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The clock has not yet been
wired in and turned on.

The 150-year-old wooden cupola was a casualty of the Courthouse fire on May 20, 2009. The new steel-and-aluminum cupola weighs 40,000 pounds. A large crane from Marlin Crane of Indianapolis lifted the structure into place in four sections: the base, the louvered section, the dome and finally the weather vane. Workers bolted each piece into place as it arrived atop the courthouse. Work began in the afternoon of Oct. 26 after a severe windstorm swept through Madison around noon that day.
The design for the new cupola is intended to replicate the old structure as closely as possible, said Jefferson County Commission Tom Pietrykowski. The design was a group effort, with contributions by Rob Creviston of American StructurePoint, an architectural engineering firm; Julie Zent and Pat Jacobs of ARCHitecture Trio; and the staff of Campbellsville Industries, one of the nation’s foremost experts in steeples and cupolas.
It may look historic, but the cupola has been improved with modern technology.
“Most county execs want a clock tower that is as maintenance-free as possible,” said David England, co-owner and president of sales and marketing for Campbellsville Industries. “We like to think that they (the original builders) would have used the best materials available and these are the best materials available today.”
The cupola has a steel frame surrounded by an aluminum frame. The exterior surface is aluminum with a very durable, baked-on fluorocarbon finish. England explained the finish is in the same family as Teflon. The cupola was custom-fabricated at the company’s plant in Campbellsville, Ky. “It’s still a craft industry, in a world of instant Jello and microwaves,” commented England. “Basically, they are artisans in this kind of work.”

View more pictures
of the new cupola.

There was some concern about the cupola appearance during fabrication, but Pietrykowski said he, Creviston and Historic Madison Inc.’s John Staicer went to Campbellsville to give their input, and a few minor changes resulted. England characterized the changes as simply a different interpretation of the architect’s drawing.
“We made the proper changes to everybody’s agreement,” he said.
The cupola has four clocks with 12-inch Roman numerals. Each clock face will be lit from behind.
The timepiece is a computer that keeps atomic time by receiving signals via global positioning satellite. The computer drives a heavy-duty gear box that moves the hands of the four clocks.
The clock also features a digital carillon that can play prerecorded music at set times – for example, the Westminster chimes on the hour or patriotic music on holidays. The clock works and carillon are not yet installed.
The bell that once hung in the bell tower was damaged in the fire and will not be placed in the cupola. Pietrykowski said it will be displayed elsewhere. The last time anyone rang the bell was April 2009, when courthouse employee Duane Hall hit it with a mallet 90 times to punctuate the names read during a crime victims rights ceremony.
Pietrykowski said he is pleased with the cupola project. “I think Campbellsville Industries went out of its way with the detail,” he said. Now, he said, it is time to turn to the courthouse interior, which has been gutted and is ready for new construction.

Back to November 2010 Articles.



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