Repair work on the huge state seal outside the Legislative Building was sidetracked recently when workers determined that all 53 brass letters embedded in an outer ring would have to be remade.
The seal work, being done by Cornell Edwards of Kinston, should be finished by the end of September at a cost of about $43,000, said Charles Weathersby, General Assembly facility manager.
“Cornell’s been the one who could come in and fix it and put it back like it was,” he said. “We haven’t had that success with anybody else.”
It’s the first major work on the seal since 2011, when the outermost ring, which includes a rope design, was replaced after the elements took their toll.
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The seal was embedded in the walkway in front of the Legislative Building on Jones Street shortly after the building opened in 1963. The ring being replaced includes the words, “The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina” and “Esse Quam Videri,” the state motto, along with two stars.
Mother Nature had caused water infiltration that led to cracking and chunks breaking off near the bottom of the seal. Weathersby said he initially believed the brass letters could be reused, but once their condition was revealed, that was no longer feasible.
“Fifty-four years later, they were worn down so thin,” Weathersby said, that trying to put them back in would cause problems. So the original letters — cut by hand, with some letters in several pieces — were traced so the dimensions could be entered into a computer program and new brass letters cut by a water jet, he said.
“Bless the guy’s heart who cut them out originally,” he said.
When the letters are finished in the next couple of weeks, work on the seal, which is closed off with a metal fence, will resume.
As for whether visitors to the Legislative Building should walk on or around the seal, Weathersby said that debate was started by longtime former Senate leader Marc Basnight. “He didn’t want to see anybody walking on it, but shoe leather’s the least of the problems out there,” he said. “It’s the weather that gets this thing.”
Weathersby walks around it, by the way.