COOKEVILLE – An iconic piece of architecture returned to Tennessee Tech University’s campus this week. A new cupola now sits atop Derryberry Hall and is home to the university’s legendary golden eagle.
In August, work began on the Derryberry Hall roofing project that brought with it a new cupola where Tech’s famous golden eagle has been perched for more than 50 years. The old cupola and the eagle that sat atop it were removed from the building in mid-October.
“The new cupola frame and exterior is made of aluminum, with the roof sections made of lead-coated copper,” said Bob Scarbrough, Project Manager. “It is supposed to be an exact replica of the old one. We reviewed the plans and shop drawings extensively to make sure.”
Despite being repainted regularly, the wood that made up the old cupola and clock tower were in need of replacement and could no longer be repainted. The aluminum materials of the new structure will have a longer lifespan, Scarborough said, and a lifespan expected to exceed the previous one, which had been in place for more than 60 years.
“After shop drawings were approved and construction began, Campbellsville Industries (who built the new cupola) would send us updates periodically,” Scarbrough said.
But the project wasn’t without delays, as COVID, weather and other factors affected the construction and installation timeline.
The eagle that sits on the cupola was stored during the construction of the new structure and was installed on the new cupola once it was completed.
The story of the eagle is indeed legendary on Tech’s campus, since three Tech students cut a metal eagle free from a hotel in Monteagle, Tennessee and brought it to Cookeville in 1952. The eagle and its story soon became a cherished tradition, its six-foot wingspan spread above Derryberry Hall for years.
The university took the advice of knowledgeable staff at the Appalachian Center for Craft and moved the aging original eagle inside for display some years ago. Meanwhile, Tech’s Hybrid Immersive Visualization Environment Lab used a 3-D scanner to capture the eagle so that a mold could be made for producing replicas of the eagle. A full-scale replica for the top of Derryberry Hall and a replica to return to the perch in Monteagle were created from that mold.
The carillon’s bells, which chime from that same tower to mark each hour, will soon chime again as well.
While the project left a missing piece in campus architecture for several months, the eagle ultimately has a perch deserving of such a campus icon, and the carillon will chime again.