It has been nearly 20 years since the iconic gold steeple atop the University of North Georgia’s Price Memorial Hall in Dahlonega has had a facelift. The first time the steeple received a delicate layer of gold was in 1973, in honor of the 100-year anniversary of UNG; The steeple was gilded for a second time in the late 90s. With roughly 20 years of wear and tear, University administrators knew it was time for the steeple to get yet another fresh coat of gold, and moved forward with the project this summer.
The Gilders Studio, a company based out of Maryland, traveled to UNG to lay delicate layers of gold leaf to the steeple. These same gilders travel all over the world to practice their art form in places like Dubai, China and Hawaii to name a few.
Gilding, the process of applying gold leaf onto an object, is really a dying art, according to artisan Jill London. She said she learned how to gild from a traditional apprenticeship with a master gilder in New York City. Her area of study was specifically gilding “rare picture frames and furniture.” London has been gilding since 1986. She and the others working on the steeple have a total of 120 years experience in the craft; however, those choosing to enter the industry are few and far between.
The project is being overseen by Allstate Construction and they are on a four-month timeline that started on June 1. Allstate Construction was hired to oversee the re-gilding as well as some needed repairs on the exterior of the steeple.
“The gold process is only about a quarter of the whole project. A lot of renovation to the wood structure, painting, taking out some rot are all in accordance to the HPD, which is the division of the Department of Natural Resources, the Historic Preservation Department,” Hank Haynes, the project manager with UNG said.
The entire cost of the project is over $400,000, with the financing coming from the UNG Foundation and the state maintenance repair fund. The gold was purchased separately by a donor for an undisclosed amount. The project is expected to be finished on October 1.