From mass.gov :-
For generations, Bostonians have used the dome of the State House to find their way to Beacon Hill, to symbolize their city, and to mark the center of the "Hub of the Solar System." But the shining landmark we love today hasn’t always gleamed with gold. In fact, it started out as a leaky wooden roof.
When up-and-coming Boston architect Charles Bulfinch took on the job of planning the State House, it was his first paid commission. He based his design on neoclassical elements: columns, a pediment, and a vast shingled dome intended to make the structure stand out among its squat, square neighbors. When construction was finished in 1798, the State House was the most architecturally important public building in the young country, the first answer to the question of what an American government building should look like. Boston’s grandest building, perched atop its highest hill, became an instant monument.
Unfortunately, Bulfinch’s grand achievement couldn’t quite stand up to New England weather. The impressive 30-foot-high dome began to leak almost immediately. After just 4 years, enough rain and snow had seeped in that the wooden shingles were beginning to rot here and there. A hero of the Revolution was called in to save the day. Paul Revere’s foundry was hired to make the dome watertight by sheathing it with a thick layer of copper (thus creating what may be the world’s largest piece of Revereware).
The new copper top was painted the dark grey of lead at first. Soon after — although no one is sure exactly when — the dome became "golden" for the first time. Boston guidebooks from the 1820s refer to the dome as yellow or bronze; we know those accounts are accurate, because during the most recent State House renovation, contractors who peeled away old paint on the dome discovered multiple coats of pale yellow paint. In 1831, though, the dome returned to its earlier leaden grey, and it remained that color for more than 40 years.
The person most responsible for the State House dome as we know it today is Nathaniel P. Banks, Governor of Massachusetts from 1858 to 1861. Banks dreamed of making the State House a magnificent landmark, something befitting the old description of Boston as "a shining city on a hill." He spoke about it often during his term as governor — persuasively, as it turned out, although the Civil War intervened. In 1874, the dome was gilded for the first time with 23.5 karat gold leaf.
In the nearly 130 years since then, the State House’s golden dome has dimmed only once: during World War II, when it was painted a dull grey to hide the glimmer of gold from any enemy ships in Boston Harbor that might have wanted to use it to aim their weapons. It was regilded in 1947 and has been the jewel of Boston’s skyline ever since.
How Do They Do That?
To keep its characteristic brilliance, the State House dome … Read More