The Sparrow Lecture

The 2019 Sparrow Lecture with Robert Baird

The Restoration of one of America’s most iconic landmarks, the US Capitol Dome.

Special Introduction by Senator Angus King

Image source: Architect of the Capitol
Image source: Architect of the Capitol

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Sponsor & Patron Reception: Mechanics’ Hall Library, 6:00pm.

Sparrow Lecture: Mechanics’ Hall Ballroom, 7:00pm (doors open at 6:45pm).


The United States Capitol is one of the most recognized and photographed buildings in the world. It is not only the legislative center for the United States but also an architectural treasure. The Dome, constructed of cast iron more than 150 years ago and a symbol of American democracy, was severely deteriorating when in 2016 a major restoration project began.

Leading a team of skilled craftsmen and artisans, Robert Baird of Historical Arts and Casting was given his “dream job” – the task of re-creating the scores of weather-damaged ornaments and elements from the national landmark. Hundreds of cast-iron decorative pieces – acorns, flowers, grape clusters and more had fallen off the dome and needed repair or recasting.

A natural storyteller, Baird will discuss the process of training his team of tradespeople during this historic three-year restoration project. He will share dynamic stories of the challenges they faced, images and details of the delicate ornamental castings, tales about the wildlife he and his crew encountered while working 300 feet up in the air and the pressure to complete the project before a presidential inauguration.

Baird will be preceded by a special introduction by Senator Angus King. A keen observer and photographer, King amassed a large following on Instagram of his everyday photos and observations from Washington. The US Capitol is often a muse. King will present photos from his book A Senator’s Eye (Islandport Press) and share his own experiences of this historic renovation.

Join us on the evening of November 8th, 2019 at 7pm in the Mechanics’ Hall Ballroom for a behind the scenes look at this engineering marvel and how it was preserved for generations to come.

Tickets are now on sale with an option to purchase admission to a pre-lecture reception at 6pm where hors d’oeuvres will be provided by David’s restaurant. Click here to purchase the following ticket types: General admission (lecture only) or choose from two types of patron tickets which include the pre-lecture reception in the library. OR to explore our donor & sponsorship opportunities further, please visit our sponsor benefits page.



Friday, November 1st from 5-8pm: Join us for First Friday Art Walk and the opening of a special exhibit curated by Bruce Brown and Robert Baird. Capitol Craft will feature photographs by Charles Badal that tell the story of the craftspeople, artisans and tradespeople who built and restored the U.S. Capitol Dome. Large format prints of Thomas U. Walter’s (the Philadelphia architect who designed the dome) original drawings will also be on display. The exhibit can be viewed throughout the month, in our classroom. Images are courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.

Friday, November 8th at 6pm: Sponsor and Patron cocktail reception in Mechanics’ Hall member library. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by David’s restaurant and a specialty cocktail by Hunt & Alpine. Sponsor and Patron tickets only.

7pm: The Sparrow Lecture in Mechanics’ Hall historic ballroom. Doors open and begin seating for general admission tickets at 6:45pm.



Architect Thomas J. Sparrow (1805-1870) was a member of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association when in 1856, the organization commissioned him to design a permanent home for its roving library collection and a center for creativity and knowledge for its members. Sparrow’s Mechanics’ Hall opened in 1859 in the heart of downtown Portland as a thriving social hall with an extensive library, dining room, music gallery, and ballroom. Today, Mechanics’ Hall is open to the public and continues to be a vibrant cultural institution serving its original members as well as the general public with literary events, music, dance performances, kids coding programs and more.

The Sparrow Lecture supports the Mechanics’ Hall member library, our year round programming and the ongoing restorations and maintenance of this culturally significant historic building.

Thank You to our Cornerstone Sponsors!

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