Why did we paint the library's roof?
By Jan Berg, Library Director
I keep running into the rumor that the library painted its roof. Since this isn't true, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss, briefly, how copper weathers. Take a bright, shiny copper penny and put it outside where the weather can get at it and you can do your own science experiment. My source for the chemistry of this explanation is from a copper shingle producer at Zappone.com and I quote " The natural weathering of copper to the characteristic blue-green or gray-green patina is a direct consequence of the mild corrosive attack of airborne sulfur compoundsB principally stemming from the combustion of fossil fuels. In the atmosphere, these compounds combine with water vapor to form dilute oxidizing acids which react with copper surfaces." The initial change of color from bright, shiny salmon to russet brown stems from the formation of a film of copper oxide on the exposed metal. "As weathering progresses, cuprous and cupric sulfide films are interspersed with the initial oxide film. These sulfide films range from chocolate brown to black in color. As they build, the exposed metal surface darkens appreciably. Continued weathering results in the conversion of the sulfide films to the basic copper sulfate which is the green-blue patina" . The chemistry is copper oxide, to cuprous and cupric sulfide, and finally to copper sulfate. Once the sulfate patina has formed, it is highly resistant to all forms of atmospheric corrosion. According to this source, copper usually weathers to a uniform russet brown within six to twelve months after initial exposure to the atmosphere and the color transform is accelerated by exposure to moisture. So, with all that being said, let me reiterate that the library roof was not painted. The copper is weathering the way it is supposed to.
Why does the library have dragons?
The library was designed by Bray and Associates Architects. Before designing the building they took many photographs of buildings in the area and looked through the photographic archives of the DeForest Area Historical Society. After that research was done the architects designed a building that was reminiscent of Norwegian Stave churches that would reflect part of this area's heritage.
The library's general form reflects the heavy timbered design of a stave building. Dragons are a specific aspect of that architectural style that developed in Norway during the period from 1200 to the 14th Century. In medieval Norway, these stylized dragons were placed at the peaks of the eaves to ward off evil spirits and guard the treasure within.
Once it was decided to have dragons on the building, research began to find a appropriate design. Little Norway in Mt. Horeb seemed a reasonable place to visit and library staff went there. They met Tim Winner, the owner of Little Norway. He had created the dragons that are a feature of those buildings, and he was gracious in being willing to share the template he uses to create these creatures.
Once a design was agreed upon, how to get the dragon built became the issue. Finally, Roberts Construction found a sign company that used new technology that would make it possible to create the dragons at a reasonable price. Cary's Sign Design Studio was contacted. This business uses computer controlled routers to cut plywood and other materials in a very precise way.
Each dragon is comprised of 4 sheets of plywood. There are 4 layers of wood in each one and each one is made of 14 different pieces. The total weight of a dragon is 100 lbs. Sealant was painted on the edges of each piece and each dragon required 4 days of construction each. The eyes and ridge rows have inset pieces of copper made from two left over shingles from the roof. The dragons were installed by George Kingsland from Roberts Construction Company, he used two 10 inch bolts to secure either side of the dragons.
The total cost for the 4 dragons was $6,500. That cost is defrayed by local donors having "" for the dragons. The East Dragon is named for the Grinde Family, (See Plaque on east wall of library) and the West Dragon is named for Susan and William Paulson (see plaque on the west wall). The cost of having a dragon with your name on it is $10,000, which may be paid over a period of time from 1 year to 20 years. There are still two dragons that are nameless.