Copperdome reopened after renovations


Maggie Dickman

The newly refinished and renovated Copperdome, the metal-covered classroom that sits on top of the high school’s administration building.

Of the many unique features at Shorewood High School, one of the most distinct and recognizable is the Copperdome. Besides being an iconic landmark from the outside, the Copperdome has served as a classroom for Political Theory and American Government for the past 25 years.

Since it was first constructed, the Copperdome has undergone many renovations. Most recently, as part of the district’s 65 million dollar referendum, the Copperdome has received a handful of modern upgrades. The changes to the interior include furniture formerly used in the library, new paint, lights and features that aim to improve the room’s acoustics, such as a strip of sound-absorbing cloth that goes around the room.

The Copperdome has been used for various purposes in the past, acting as everything from an art room to a language lab to a storage space. 

“When I moved up here, [the Copperdome] wasn’t really being used for anything at the time,” said John Jacobson, social studies teacher and current occupant of the Copperdome.

When Jacobson was offered the Copperdome as a classroom in 1996, he decided to take a chance on it. Other teachers had refused the offer because, at the time, it was not a workable classroom.

“I [thought] it could be a really neat space and I was willing to take that chance,” Jacobson said.

Over the years, parts of the Copperdome slowly began to fall into a state of disrepair. 

“There was one point where some plaster fell down off the ceiling and we were very fortunate that no students were in the classroom when it happened,” said Tim Kenney, SHS principal. The copper on the outside of the dome had also begun to oxidize, taking on a greenish-blue color.

Eventually, when it came time to put the money from the recent referendum to use in 2020, the Copperdome was considered a priority. 

“As we were looking at the overall construction project — we took a lot of community feedback about the decision-making process involved and what pieces of the construction we were going to do and what we weren’t going to do — the Copperdome definitely made the list,” Kenney said. “People see the Copperdome as an important part of the Shorewood Schools’ history. It’s kind of iconic, and people really wanted to see the Copperdome be taken care of.”

Construction on the Copperdome started over a year ago and was recently completed on November 19. A major reason for the length of the project was the unique design of the Copperdome, especially the actual copper. Mike Huffman, owner’s representative of the referendum project and President of Huffman Facility Development Inc, helps the school manage the logistics of the referendum’s construction.

“Doing an actual copper roof is not done very often these days,” Huffman said. “It’s much more laborious than other types of roofing systems, so that definitely was a more tedious and time-consuming piece of construction.”

Like the rest of the Shorewood High School buildings, the Copperdome is a historic structure, which meant that the project included the extra challenge of preserving the building’s historic integrity.

“The buildings you have there are great, historic pieces and we want to honor that,” Huffman said. “It’s really a fun challenge to work with a historic building, but also [to] make it into a modern academic environment [has] been pretty enjoyable.”

The old copper roofing was saved to be used in potential future projects. For example, part of the copper will be used to make a time capsule. It currently resides in Kenney’s office.

Although there has not yet been an opening ceremony for the new space, after Thanksgiving break, Jacobson and his classes returned to the Copperdome for the first time in over a year. 

“It’s the same old building but a new take on it, and I think that’s an exciting opportunity and an exciting time,” Jacobson said.