When the current State Capitol building was built in 1905, it was the third in Minnesota’s storied history (the first burned down in 1881 and the second quickly became too small for the growing government). The 12-year, $4.5 million project designed by local architect Cass Gilbert would be worth $110 million today.
Gilbert’s design included the second largest self-supported dome in the world (behind St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), numerous sculptures and paintings representative of Minnesota (think lady slippers, loons and gophers), a 6-foot-92-light-bulb chandelier and 1,500 pieces of custom furniture (800 remain today).
Naturally, the following century took quite a toll on the magnificent Capitol building and a restoration project was put in place in 2012 to return the building to its original splendor. The $310 million renovation project took nearly four years, but the work is now complete. Here are some highlights:
A fresh, clean exterior
20,000 repairs were made to the corroded marble exterior and 6,000 pieces of Georgia marble were replaced with stone mined from the same quarry as the originals.
Stay gold, Ponyboy
The golden Quadriga sculpture that sits above the south entrance was cleaned and regilded. Fun fact, the four horses represent the power of nature (earth, wind, fire and water), the women represent civilization and the man represents prosperity.
Conservators spent several months meticulously tending to the building’s 57 murals with cotton swabs to restore the vibrancy of the paintings.
Let there be light
Six skylights were uncovered to bring in more natural light.
Bring your friends
The restored Capitol has twice as much public space—nearly 40,000 square feet. These spaces include new meeting rooms, lounges, event spaces and public seating in hearing rooms.
The Minnesota Historical Society will operate the building’s new information center and classroom for the nearly 1,300 student groups that tour the Capitol every year.
Expanded dining options include a second-floor lunch counter.