Courthouse cupola goes up
structure is updated with
new materials, atomic clock, carillon
(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
by Darrel Taylor
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 nations foremost experts in steeples and
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 companys plant in Campbellsville,
Ky. Its still a craft industry, in a world of instant Jello
and microwaves, commented England. Basically, they are artisans
in this kind of work.
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 architects drawing.
We made the proper changes to everybodys agreement,
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.
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