photo - Wade Seth, left, and Adam Kalanquin with Bonsai Design scaled the dome of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Wednesday, November 2, 2016, to replace lights. 128 lights were replaced with new, energy efficient LED lights atop the 160 foot tall clock tower dome. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Wade Seth, left, and Adam Kalanquin with Bonsai Design scaled the dome of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Wednesday, November 2, 2016, to replace lights. 128 lights were replaced with new, energy efficient LED lights atop the 160 foot tall clock tower dome. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

How many people does it take to change the 100-plus light bulbs on the dome of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum?

Three specialized technicians - and dozens of feet of rope, said JT Turman, an operations manager with project contractor Bonsai Design.

Two of the workers could be seen dangling in harnesses and helmets roughly 160 feet from the ground Wednesday, replacing the dome's compact fluorescent bulbs with longer-lasting, energy-saving LED lights. Truman kept watch below.

The Grand Junction-based company has installed ziplines and aerial adventure courses at Seven Falls, Royal Gorge and other destinations in Colorado and beyond, Turman said.

"It's not your average 9 to 5," Turman said. "Every day is different. Every job is different."

Since the dome's lights were last replaced in 2010, many of the bulbs have flickered off, leaving some faces of the tower poorly lit, said Museum Director Matt Mayberry.

The new bulbs, about the same size as standard light bulbs, were covered by clear glass bell jars once installed to protect them from the wind, rain and snow. Replacements were expected to be finished by Thursday or Friday.

When the building opened in 1903, originally as the El Paso County Courthouse, it was among the city's tallest structures. Architect A.J. Smith, who designed the facility, envisioned the dome would always be lit, Mayberry said.

"The dome itself during the day and the lights at night were something of a beacon for a community. They would have been seen and can be seen all over town," he said. "Our job as a history museum is to preserve the building as it was intended."

The replacement project is expected to cost about $6,500, with roughly $5,500 covering labor costs, Mayberry said. Some of the total will be covered by donations from the Tower Lights Society, made up of families that provide $150 monthly donations to sponsor the tower in honor of a loved one.

A $1.5 million renovation of the museum's exterior, in the works for roughly a decade, is slated to be completed in the spring, he said.

The restoration has included repairing mortar joints between stone blocks and cleaning masonry and metal on the outside of the building. The fifth and final phase will repair doors and windows.

The city is paying for about 15 percent of the renovations, with about 70 percent of the funding coming from a History Colorado-State Historical Fund grant, Mayberry said.

"It's that same thought process - preservation of the building, making sure that it remains a prominent building for downtown," he said. "We think it's perhaps the grandest historic structure in town, so we want to make sure it looks the way it was intended."

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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