Lincoln County residents are familiar with the work of local architect Rick Burt, including the Lincoln Academy Alumni Dining Commons in Newcastle and Rising Tide Community Market in Damariscotta. Recently, however, the Maine Senate recognized Burt for his role in another project — the 30-year restoration of the Maine State House.
For Burt, of Boothbay Harbor and formerly of Newcastle, architecture has been a lifelong passion.
“It’s really the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to be,” Burt said. “When I was in college, I was interested in sculpture and oceanography, but I didn’t have the same feelings for those as I had from architecture. I liked being able to build things.”
Burt grew up in central New Hampshire and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1975 before attending the University of Minnesota, where he earned a Master of Architecture degree in 1980. Burt and his wife, Barbara Burt, moved to Maine in 1986, when he accepted a job at the firm Moore, Weinrich, and Woodward in Brunswick.
In 1990, Burt became the principal and owner of Weinrich and Burt Architects. The firm was later hired to design a restoration of the State House.
Built in January 1832, the State House has undergone various expansions and renovations over the past two centuries, including a major remodel in the early 1900s. About 30 years ago, a new phase of renovations to the building and grounds began, according to the Legislature’s website.
Burt began working on minor renovations to the building in 1988, before he and Weinrich developed a master plan for the restoration and modernization of the entire building in 1996.
“It was virtually a complete renovation of the building to bring it into this century,” Burt said. “It’s a project I am really proud of.”
An important part of the project was the construction of a tunnel between the State House and the Burton M. Cross Office Building. As part of the project, crews had to blast ledge underneath the buildings, including directly under what was then Gov. Angus King’s office, Burt said.
“To be standing underneath the State House as it’s being held up by steel beams, I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think anyone is going to have a highlight in their career like this one,’” Burt said.
Another major project was the replacement of the copper dome at the top of the building. The original was installed during the early 1900s and, over time, had weathered to become a shade of green, according to the Legislature’s website. In the fall of 2014, crews installed a new copper dome that shined “like a new penny,” Burt said.
At the time of the dome’s installation, the Burts were living in Minnesota, where Burt was the director of architecture at Leo A Daly. Burt flew back to Maine several times during his three-year stint in Minnesota to continue oversight of the renovations before the couple returned to Maine in 2015.
Now, more than 30 years after work began, all of the major projects have been completed, Burt said.
To commemorate Burt’s work, Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, presented him with a legislative sentiment in May. The presentation was a surprise to Burt, whose wife told him they were going to see their daughter. Only when they stopped at the State House under the pretense of showing his granddaughter his work was Burt let in on the surprise.
While his work at the State House has concluded, Burt remains busy with numerous projects through his current firm, Richard Burt Architect, from helping a couple design an energy-efficient retirement home to working with Inn Along the Way on its senior community at Chapman Farm in Damariscotta.
One of the most meaningful projects he has worked on was the construction of a summer home in Round Pond. His wife and her siblings owned a plot of land and had decided to build a home on the property for the five families to share. During visits, Burt worked with each family on their ideas for the family cottage and designed models for each.
The project came to a conclusion one weekend when the entire group was present. Each family set out the models and spoke about their ideas before everyone discussed what Maine meant to them.
“It was just a very special time for the family, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve worked on,” Burt said.