- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

RICHMOND — Virginia’s 219-year-old Capitol reopened to the public yesterday morning after a two-year, $104.5 million expansion and a foundation-to-roof overhaul.

Amid the flourish of fifes and the ruffle of drums, hundreds of people watched as schoolchildren, including those of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, cut a red, white and blue ribbon tied between the two central columns on the Capitol’s South Portico.

Five leaders of indigenous Virginia Indian tribes in full native regalia performed a ceremonial dance, blessing the structure.

“There was an effort not to be extravagant, but also not to cut corners” in the Capitol makeover, said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. “The last significant renovation of this facility was 100 years ago.”

Mr. Kaine said the restoration and new construction imparts the same message Thomas Jefferson sent with his two major works of public architecture — build something that lasts.

“This was the first, this Capitol building,” the governor said. “The second, and last, was the University of Virginia. How amazing it is to stand here today and realize that both of those civic architectural projects have lasted and are still doing today exactly what Jefferson had in mind for them when he designed them.”

Jefferson patterned the Capitol in 1785 after a Roman temple in Nimes, France. It opened three years later. Modern House and Senate wings were added in 1906.

The structure is still being readied for a visit tomorrow by Queen Elizabeth II.

Thousands of people are expected on Capitol Square to see the queen and for a music festival that will include church choirs, jazz and bluegrass from Ralph Stanley. The queen will address a commemorative joint session of the state Senate and House.

The Capitol was closed in March 2005, its central masonry structure weakened by moisture saturation that had reduced to clay some of its original hand-fired bricks. The building was gutted, its damaged brick and mortar were replaced, and skylights atop the central rotunda and the House and Senate chambers were uncovered and restored.

In many places, the colors and fabric replicating the originals were put in place after research by historians and archaeologists. The House and Senate chambers were transformed from bleak, off-white paint schemes to a new Victorian look rich with tans, gold leaf, burgundy and mauve that replicate their original early 20th-century look.

The project also added a new public entryway that opens into a cavernous, subterranean extension finished in carved granite, glass and polished steel. Inside is a museum, a gift shop, meeting and reception rooms with full theater capability, a cafe and a press room. A series of sweeping stairways, ramps and elevators take visitors upward into the Capitol under the South Portico.

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