Historical buildings tell a story. They help us understand the people and community who built it at the time. Historical preservation helps ensure that story continues.
That is why investments are made to preserve our State Capitol. Thousands of visitors from across the country and even around the world tour our Capitol every year.
This week, the House proudly opened its chamber doors to let the public see the work of the latest restoration project.
The entire floor of the chamber has been restored to what architects had in mind more than 100 years ago.
The desks, which were originally installed in the 1960’s, were replaced. The Capitol historian had discovered 1914 blue prints from architect F.H. Peckwell. Although, the House began using this chamber back in 1911, this original design for the desks had never been utilized until now.
Our architect, Gary Clements and Associates, and contractor, Baldwin and Shell, used the blue prints to design the quarter sawn white oak desks and Speaker’s rostrum. This design not only creates more space but brings the chamber back to what the first designers of the Capitol had in mind.
We also replaced the carpet and added new technology to assist members who are hearing impaired. The outdated voting machine, which records all votes taken in the House, was replaced with digital technology.
The completion of project was the final step of phased restoration for the chamber that began in 2008. It began when cracks began to appear in a plaster column.
Since then, every section including the galleries and the stained glass dome has been restored back to the original designs for the building.
The costs for the latest project totaled close to $1 million. All construction projects go through a bidding process and are approved by the House Management Committee. While restoration can be costly, the cost of not maintaining the building is far greater. Prior to this latest series of restorations, there had not been a significant update to the chamber in more than 30 years.
It is a humbling experience to make decisions in the chamber. The historical character of the building forces us to think of the decisions made decades ago that either moved our state forward or set us back.
Although we have the privilege of working here, the House chamber belongs to Arkansans. We invite you to the see the work for yourself next time you are at the Capitol. In the meantime, check out the photos of what the chamber looked like before, during construction, and the completed restoration at www.arkansashouse.org.