Golden Dome of Boston To Go ‘Gray’

For the past year, Americans had watched London pounded by the Blitz. After the dramatic US entry into WWII,  fears rose of the arrival enemy bombers on the American mainland.

In February, 1942, Governor Saltonstall of Massachusetts ordered a blackout of the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House; the gilding would make too good a target. The following month, workers painted it gray.

The State House dome had gone gray before. The precocious Charles Bulfinch, who designed the State House at age 24 (c. 1798), originally made its dome out of wood. The wooden dome leaked; so, Paul Revere’s foundry produced copper sheathing for protection. The copper coating was painted a dark lead.

The dome received it’s first gold coating almost a century after construction, in 1874. This followed from the persistent prodding of Governor Nathaniel P. Banks (1858 to 1861), who was after a landmark befitting “a shining city on a hill.”

Originally, the entire State House facade was painted white. With the color and the columns, it must have looked a lot like Chicago’s Great White City. During more renovations in 1928, the paint was removed from the walls, exposing the brick underneath.

Below: Postcard of the State House in Winter.


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