Fixing the Tarnished Copper Dome of the Brown County Courthouse

Local News

The mystery of the fast-fading Brown County Courthouse copper dome – appears to have been solved. Now a solution has been proposed to bring back the shine that disappeared in just a few months.

Two months ago, engineers were on the Brown County Courthouse to determine why a copper dome installed late last year lost it shine in a just few months.  Now the county’s public works director says this report suggests why.

“It was pretty inconclusive.  It did say though the linseed oil didn’t work here in Brown County,” said Paul Fontecchio, director of Brown County Public Works.

This copper dome was installed as part of a $1.7 million project in late 2017 which also restored aging limestone and repaired these clocks. The contractor used linseed oil to seal the copper at a cost of $30,000. But it caused severe discoloration and people noticed right away.

“For just having it done, it seems like kind of a shame that it looks already semi-tarnished,” said one man outside the courthouse Tuesday.

“It’s not so much that it happened, it’s more of what are we going to do about it,” said Fontecchio.

Monday night a county committee voted to accept a $40,000 settlement from SGH, the engineering firm who recommended the sealant. That money to be used to remove the linseed oil to let the copper develop a patina naturally. 

“It will brown and turn darker and long term, it will turn green,” said Fontecchio.

“The dome is a focal point for Brown County and we want it to look good,” said Brown County Supervisor Pat Evans.

Evans says he’s disappointed how quickly the dome tarnished. He plans to closely examine the proposed settlement when it goes before the full county board.

“Certainly no one is happy about it and we’ve got to remedy that,” Evans said.

“It was frustrating that it didn’t stay the way we’d hoped it would. The linseed oil from what I’ve read in the literature, it has worked in other places. It just didn’t work in Brown County. It’s a live and learn and we just move forward,” said Fontecchio.

The settlement proposal goes before the full board August 15. 

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