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Portals of bronze a passage from Arkansas’s past to the future

Press Shop | 01.09.2019

Richard Adcock’s co-workers at the state capitol tease him that his picture shows up in the newspaper more often than the governor’s.

While that’s a stretch – he appeared only five times in 2018 – it is likely that his face appears in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette more often than any other employee of the Secretary of State’s office.

In the 2010-2017 stretch, the paper featured Richard five times, including a full-blown story about his work at the capitol. That brings his grand total to 10 appearances in the state’s largest newspaper.

It’s not that Richard works more than his fellow employees, it’s the nature of his work that makes him popular with photographers.

          Richard does a variety of chores at the capitol, but his most important and time-consuming job, and the one that attracts attention, is to polish the three pairs of bronze doors at the top of the capitol steps.

          Weather permitting, Richard spends part of every single work day rubbing on the doors, which is necessary to keep the tarnish at bay and to retain their mirror shine.

          “It’s constant,” Richard says.

          Cass Gilbert, a world-renowned architect who oversaw the final design and construction of Arkansas’s capitol, designed the 1,300-pound doors, which are four inches thick. The 109-year-old doors were fabricated in 1910 by Louis Comfort Tiffany at Tiffany Studios in New York, famous for its lamps. (Louis was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, famous for his jewelry.)

          The doors are made of bronze with a high-tin content, according to David Ware, the Secretary of State’s capitol historian. Arkansas paid $10,000 for the doors, which the contractor installed in October 1910.

          Richard hired on with the Secretary of State’s office 20 years ago, and he drew the polishing assignment in 2010 after his supervisor at the time observed that Richard “looked like someone who could do this job.”

          Other than the passing of time, Richard’s biggest enemies are the ravages of weather and sightseers’s fingerprints. Richard can polish a pair of doors in about four hours.

          For most of the capitol’s history, the middle set of doors was the primary entrance. “Visitors who wanted to hike up the front stairs could pull open the doors, then walk through the incredibly cool revolving door,” Mr. Ware says. “I know that I did this on my first day here, which was August 21, 2001.”

          Less than a month later, the attacks on New York and Washington changed that easy access. The chief of capitol police recommended that the doors remain locked. Eighteen years later, the doors remain locked. Visitors who enter the capitol on the east side enter through the lower tunnel doors and pass through a metal detector.

          The doors, works of art unto themselves, are ever-changing canvases of bronze that reflect the day-to-day life that passes in front of the capitol and briefly transform the images into the sepia-tone images that make Arkansas's history. They are portals of bronze from the past that open to the future.

          Now, only two people are allowed to use Richard’s brightly polished bronze doors. Santa Claus is one of them. Every year, Santa walks through the doors to  open the annual Christmas lighting ceremony.

          And every four years, Arkansas’s newly elected governor walks through the doors and down the century old capitol steps for the ceremonial swearing in.

          On Tuesday (January 15, 2019), Asa Hutchinson will emerge from the capitol through Richard Adcock’s faithfully polished bronze doors. After he takes the ceremonial oath of office, he will walk back inside through the door, which will give him the opportunity to view, however briefly, the bright reflection of Arkansas’s 46th governor as he embarks full stride into his second term.

(Weather permitting, you will find Secretary of State employee Richard Adcock (top photo) polishing the Capitol's bronze doors most any day of the week, a job he inherited in 2010. Governor Asa Hutchinson and First Lady Susan Hutchinson emerge from the capitol through the center bronze doors for his second swearing in on January 15, 2019.)

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