A ton of light back in dome

The light goes up. More photos on Facebook.

By Don Davis

A 1-ton, 6-foot-wide ball of light is back home inside the Minnesota Capitol dome.

Hundreds of spectators attended a Thursday ceremony to watch the chandelier rise. The event included early 1900s music that visitors would have heard when the chandelier was first lit.

The chandelier has 48,000 crystal beads and hangs from a massive chain. A motor hauled it 142 feet up to his home, and when it arrived and its 92 electric bulbs turned on.

Brian Pease of the Minnesota Historical Society said there is no way to grasp the size of the chandelier when it hangs high above the Capitol rotunda. But it was an impressive sight hanging near the third floor for the past few days, before a four-minute trip up as a motor lifted it to the top of the dome.

Once at the top, a worker grabbed the electrical plug on the top of the chain and manually plugged it in as vocalist Erick Pearson sang “Hail! Minnesota.”

The chandelier, bought from a New York City company for $1,250 before the Capitol opened, has been sitting near the rotunda for two years to allow dome repair work and to give Minnesota Historical Society experts time to work on it. Capitol visitors were able to gaze at it close-up for one of the few times in history.

The $4 million dome project repaired water leaks and improved air circulation. It was an early step of what is envisioned as a thorough Capitol renovation to cost more than $200 million.

Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk told the hundreds gathered for the late-afternoon ceremony that the continued Capitol restoration is needed. He told spectators to look up on the inside of the dome to see paint and artwork damage from years of water leaks.

The chandelier, known as an “electrolier” when the Capitol opened in 1905, usually is only turned on for the anniversary of Minnesota’s statehood, May 11, when Minnesota dignitaries lie in state in the rotunda and other special occasions.

Before the giant light was lowered Aug. 10, 2010, it had been taken down just four other times for cleaning, bulb replacement and repair.

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