Tippecanoe County's courthouse dome temporarily sports a new reddish-orange color, but for those who think it's primer paint — or suspect it's a fashionable burnt orange for the fall lineup — it isn't. It's rust.
"It's made of cast iron," Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tracy Brown said of the new color, which is visible through the scaffolding.
The dome is stripped of its protective paint as part of a $3.5 million project to repair and restore it and the courthouse roof below the dome, Brown said.
"There are some areas of the dome that have rusted through," Brown said. "In some cases, they've patched it; in other cases, they're replacing it.
"It's a big project. We're at the will of the weather right now."
The rust is nothing to be concerned about, and county officials knew rust would develop on the dome during the restoration process, Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said.
"It's just surface rust," Murtaugh said.
When the weather warms, the rust will be removed, the dome will be primed and painted, Murtaugh said.
Murtaugh and Brown both said the dome should be completed by spring — the end of June at the latest, Brown added.
Some of the ornate metal around the clock area of the dome is nothing more than sheet metal and will need to be replaced with something more durable, Brown said.
"As soon as they finish with the dome, they'll move to the roof," Murtaugh said.
The crews will remove the scaffolding from the roof, but scaffolding will be placed so crews can work on some of the ornate structures at the roof level, Brown said. While making these repairs, crews will patch and restore the courthouse roof, including a new membrane to seal out water.
The courthouse, which was constructed in 1882 for a cost of $500,000, has endured several maintenance projects through the centuries, Brown said.
In 1993, the county wrapped up a $15 million renovation and remodeling of the inside of the courthouse, Brown said. A few years ago, windows were replaced and some sealing of the limestone exterior was completed, as well as repairs and restoration of the retaining wall around the courthouse lawn.
This current project is expected to be completed by the end of October, Brown said.