The University of Missouri plans to spend $550,000 this summer to repair its iconic columns on the Francis Quadrangle.
The six Ionic columns, which were built on the Columbia campus in 1842, have been battered by weather and students over the years.
The repair work will include smoothing and sealing cracks, attaching loose stones and sanding veins. Scaffolding went up last week and work is started Monday, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Jeffery Brown, senior director for campus facilities, said the columns are structurally sound so the work will be strictly preservation. But moisture has settled into some of the water-absorbent cracks, widening them during severe temperature shifts and releasing loose stones. Brown said construction crews will waterproof the columns by sealing the cracks with five types of grout.
Neither Brown nor Majid Amirahmadi, the project's principal architect, could predict how long the repairs would last.
"It is difficult to predict the longevity of any masonry conservation," Amirahmadi said. "We can say with certainty that it will preserve the landmark for many years to come."
The 43-foot columns are all that remains of the school's original Academic Hall, which burned down in 1892 during a fire sparked by defective wiring and intensified by gunpowder stored in the building's dome.
Today, the columns are site of the annual Tiger Walk for freshmen in the fall, when students walk toward Jesse Hall, and the Senior Send-off in the spring, when students reverse the journey.
The preservation work is expected to end in August.