By Steven Jackson’12
Getting up to the Middle College cupola is a chore. From the third floor, I follow a narrow set of stairs up to the attic. The attic is a jungle of old filing boxes and stacks of paperwork; everything seems to be covered in a layer of fine dust. Following Maintenance Supervisor Bruce Hamilton’s lead, I make my way through the attic and climb two more small flights of stairs, ducking under roof beams and trusses.
The walls and wooden beams in this part of the attic are riddled with names and dates carved deep, scratched lightly, or slathered in white paint. The year ’87 shows up several times—1987 or 1887 we can’t be sure—and a certain Bob Smith left his mark more than once.
One more ascent up a final ladder, and we have reached the inside of the cupola. In the morning, when we arrive, the windows are glazed in morning dew—it’s hard to see outside. Nevertheless, it feels great to be standing inside a Beloit icon.
The first Middle College cupola was built in 1880, along with a two-story porch. In 1939, the building was redesigned and the current cupola was added. The structure hasn’t received any significant structural care or attention since that time—until now. The cupola is at the top of its game, literally and figuratively. The highest accessible spot on campus was recently renovated, and now stands spiffier than ever before.
Renovation began this September and was completed at the end of November. The cupola’s exterior wood structure was preserved, while railings, lattice work, and decorative urns surrounding the cupola were replaced with more durable synthetic material. The copper roof, once tinged green with weather and time, now has a shiny new replacement. For the steel spire crowning the building, the college hired a blacksmith to restore missing and damaged pieces using only traditional tools and methods. The entire renovation was topped off with a fresh coat of white paint. The project was made possible by a gift from William Corlis’37.