Rhode Island’s Independent Man is coming down for restoration

Work could take up to one year

By: - September 15, 2023 12:22 pm

A crane bring workers to the top of the State House dome Friday morning to assess to how bring down the Indented Man who sits atop the building’s marble perch. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

PROVIDENCE — For the first time in nearly half a century, and only the second time in state history, the gold-covered bronze Independent Man will leave his marble perch atop the Rhode Island State House and touch solid ground.

Gov. Dan McKee said at a press conference across the street from the State House Friday morning that the 124-year-old statue will undergo restoration after a team of state employees on Tuesday captured drone footage revealing damage to the dome that holds the Independent Man.

Video was taken to document the ongoing $2.2 million State House clearing and restoration project initiated by the McKee administration in July and scheduled to be completed in early 2024.

“We’re grateful that our surveillance of the building revealed the damage,” McKee said as workers could be seen on the dome under the statue, along with a nearby crane. “This allowed us to act quickly to safeguard this important piece of Rhode Island history.”

The statue itself is fine, barring some weathering since the 1970s, said Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Assistant Director Marco Schiappa. But with the possibility of a hurricane hitting Rhode Island, the governor said it was important to free the Independent Man before he gets toppled.

“It’s not structurally intact the way it’s supposed to be,” Schiappa said.

The crane was brought in to allow workers to access the statue and figure out the best way to get him down, McKee. When the statue will officially come down is still unknown, as Schiappa said the timeline is “still being figured out.”

The Independent Man atop the Rhode Island State House needs some maintenance work, Gov. Dan McKee announced Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (Office of the Governor)

Dec 20, 1975, was the last (and only) time in history that the Independent Man was brought down from the State House dome for repair. (Courtesy of Rhode Island State Archives)

Drone footage shows the cupola on top of the State House had separated and opened up, something Department of Administration (DOA) Director Jonathan Womer said was not visible when crews took similar footage in January.

Womer attributed this dilapidation to heavy rain and high windstorms in Providence throughout the summer.

“One of them probably contributed to this,” he said. “Exactly which? We’re going to have to assess.”

The last time the statue came down was in 1975. It was off the dome for about a year — a timeframe Womer said is likely with this latest restoration effort. 

The plan, Schiappa said, is to get the statue into a crane basket and remove the loose stones from the dome.

Officials are also getting a final cost estimate on the statue’s restoration as Womer said the DOA is conducting an insurance assessment.

The governor’s office said it’s looking at options for displaying the statue so the public can enjoy it “before it  is reunited to its base atop the State House.”


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.