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Capitol Rotunda Balustrade

ARG Conservation Services, Inc. / Capitol Rotunda Balustrade

Capitol Rotunda Balustrade

The California State Capitol Building and grounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and listed as a California Historical Landmark in 1974.. The rotunda, which rises 128 feet, from the basement of the building to the oculus at the apex of the inner dome, occasionally serves as both a ceremonial space, but most often serves as an orientation space for the hundreds of visitors who explore the Capitol each day. The balustrade that rings the rotunda on the second floor is original to the building but was refinished during the restoration campaign that took place in the 1980s. As such, the surfaces did not retain any original finishes. ARG Conservation Services (ARG/CS) was retained by Burnett & Sons, an historic millwork company, to oversee the refinishing of the historic balustrade.

Color variations existed within and between different sections of wood. These variations were attributed to variations in the color of the wood itself and variations in the color of the existing finishes. Further, it was determined that both the natural colorants in the wood and the applied stains and varnishes had shifted in color. Sections of the balustrade facing the exterior windows and door had faded and the varnish was cracked and deteriorated from exposure to sunlight. Segments exposed to were lighter and more yellow in color, while the unexposed sides were darker and more red. ARG/CS researched and tested non-VOC and low-odor finishes with the goals of preserving the original wood and minimizing the impact on normal building activities. When selecting the color for the top rail and base board, a stain in between the two extremes was selected to help unify the overall appearance of the balustrade. The final, approved mock-up utilized two layers of varnish applied in a manner that allowed some of the wood texture to remain on the surface. The nearby orantely carved wood stairs were used as a guide for mathcing the overall finished, wood grain texture.


Conservation Treatments


Burnett & Sons


Sacramento, California