An Autumn Accent: Gold Leaf

Nobody quite remembers when the portico ceilings outside Memorial Church were last tended. They're easy to miss, if you're not in the habit of looking up. Refreshed with new paint and gold leaf this fall, they are now particularly worthy of attention. "The Reverend [Gomes] is very happy," says property manager Daniel Murphy, who oversees work at the church, where the last two summers have seen the exterior entirely repainted. Architectural decorative artists restored the portico ceiling while the finishing touches--gold leaf for the massive weathervane atop the church--were being added by Robert Levesque Jr., a second-generation steeplejack. Levesque last gilded the weathervane in 1988, like his father before him in 1975. Levesque uses oversize chimney jacks made especially for this steeple to secure the scaffolding. His father used standard, smaller jacks that had to be stabilized with come-alongs, an assembly that the son remembers as precarious. Even so, when Levesque lassoes the massive weathervane--which is five feet high and eight feet wide and requires eight rolls of Italian gold leaf ($350 a roll) to gild--it can catch a breeze and set the steeple and scaffold silently rocking together--265 feet above the ground.

Back on earth, in the realm of the freshman residence halls, new students arrived with their belongings. The unfortunate occupants of a fourth-floor Stoughton Hall room, having settled in, were discommoded when their ceiling collapsed in a hail of plaster and dust. Stoughton and neighboring Hollis Hall were evacuated, and Loker Commons was fitted with cots to house the displaced first-years. No one was seriously hurt in the incident and--after fevered work by engineers, who identified faulty nails as the culprit--the ceiling was repaired and the freshmen reinstalled, all in just two days.

You might also like

John Manning Appointed Interim Provost

Harvard Law School dean moves to central administration

Facebook’s Failures

Author and tech journalist Jeff Horwitz speaks at Harvard.

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

Most popular

An Orphaned Sewing Machine

The multifaceted global and interdisciplinary impact of a useful object

Harvard Discloses Top Earners

The annual report details administrators’ and endowment investment managers’ compensation.

Photograph of Humsa Venkatesh in her lab

The Brain-Cancer Link

Growth-stimulating crosstalk between the brain and cancer tumors presents a new target for therapy.

More to explore

Michael Hill in a Marlins quarter zip

Leading with Care

Michael Hill strikes the right balance.

illustration of robotic hands manipulating a wooden maze to guide a worm in the maze to a target

Computational Control of a Living Brain?

How an AI agent learned to guide an animal to food—and what it might mean for Parkinson’s patients.

Naomi Bashkansky sits on a table with a chess board behind her.

Strategic Planning

A chess player’s moves on AI safety