140-Year-Old Leak in Memorial Hall Dome Finally Fixed

Memorial Hall, now home of the Please Touch Museum, sprung a leak in its dome not long after it opened in 1876. It’s been restored and repaired.

Memorial Hall dome before and after

Photos courtesy of the Please Touch Museum

The City of Philadelphia has finally fixed a 140-year-old problem.

After a nine-month repair job, the dome at Memorial Hall has been restored. A chronic leak at the building, now the home of the Please Touch Museum, has plagued it for pretty much all of its 140 years. Memorial Hall was originally built for the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

“The city was incredibly helpful on the project, primarily financially, but they were also instrumental in getting the approvals from the Historic Commission and Fairmount Park,” Please Touch Museum President/CEO Lynn McMaster said in a release. “This building and the museum are gems. We are proud to be in Memorial Hall and grateful that the City determined that this repair was necessary to preserve the dome and this landmark building.” 

A worker repairs the dome at Memorial Hall, home of the Please Touch Museum

A worker repairs the dome. (Photo: Please Touch Museum)

The repair work was funded primarily with a $1.125 million grant from the city. The dome was first stripped to the bare metal, and 100 broken panes of glass were replaced. Workers then replaced the glass, and coated the 8,000 square foot dome with Sikalastic 621TC, a water-proofing sealant. Sikalastic 621TC was also applied to the four sculptures that surround the dome.

“We now have a completely dry interior and we won’t have to face the worry of contending with a leaking dome, nor will we have problems as the result of the impact of moisture on the building itself,” McMaster said.  “Water can be pretty unfriendly to wall treatments and paint.”

KSK Architects Planners Historians oversaw the restoration; it was their research that showed that the dome first started leaking shortly after Memorial Hall was opened in 1876. The Please Touch Museum added that, with the renovations, drivers on the Schuylkill Expressway will now be able to see the lit green dome at night more easily.

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