The historic dome, known as a cupola, that has stood atop the southwest corner of the Elks Building in downtown Aspen for 12 decades has been refurbished — and it might be unveiled during the Fourth of July parade.
“That’s our goal,” said Mike Haman, a trustee of Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224.
If all goes according to plan, the cupola not only will be featured in the Main Street parade procession but will be reinstalled in its proper spot on the week of July 7, according to project manager Steve DeClute, of William H. Baker Construction, the general contractor.
Haman declined to divulge the cost of the restoration project.
From its Elks Building perch at the corner of South Galena Street and East Hyman Avenue, the cupola stands as one of Aspen’s oldest icons, according to Graeme Means, the architect on the project.
“It’s a symbol of Aspen’s silver-mining past,” Means said.
The dome measures 12 feet in diameter and 8 feet high, dimensions that do not include the crown rail that adorns the top of it. Since early May, both the crown rail and the dome have been getting a makeover in Basalt, courtesy of subcontractor Col West Roofing, under the supervision of Means and DeClute.
The wood that serves as the frame for the dome was in decent shape, and most of it was preserved, Means said.
What needed replacing was what covered the frame: galvanized sheet metal from the 19th century. It was leaking during rainy and snowy weather. The wooden dome has been resheathed in lead-coated copper, allowing the cupola to retain its traditional silver color.
”We wanted to stay with a natural-colored material as opposed to a painted material,” Means said. “I looked into doing the restoration with real silver sheathing. Over time it would have gotten tarnished, just like flatware.”
The crown rail required some detail work, such as waterproofing and crack repairs, DeClute said.
A new flagpole for the center of the cupola is on its way to Aspen. It is being handcrafted at Adirondack Flagpole Co. in Keeseville, New York. The old flagpole was not a pole in the modern sense; it was an actual tree, Means said.
“At first, I wanted to cut another tree for the pole,” he said. “I also considered an aluminum pole.”
When the flagpole is installed, the top will rise about 65 feet from the corner sidewalk, said Means, who has an office in the Elks Building.
The three-story building itself was completed at the height of the local silver boom in 1891 by Henry Webber, an Aspen shoemaker who became a successful businessman and also served as mayor.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, it was originally called the Webber Block. The Elks Club moved into the building in 1904 and purchased the building in 1916, according to the fraternal organization’s website.
DeClute said he did not know exactly when the cupola was placed atop the building, but he believes it occurred within two years of the building’s completion.
He said there are a lot of similarities between the cupola and the belltower of the Aspen Community Church, which recently underwent a renovation. The building materials and construction methodology are indicative of the late-19th-century period when both were built, he said.
“It’s been a team effort and a community endeavor,” DeClute said. “It will be a vast improvement, and we’re all excited to see it back on top of the building.”
“The Elks Lodge really stepped up to the plate to preserve this,” Means added. “They want it to last another 120 years.”