- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

RICHMOND Legislation allowing Virginia to sell $118 million in bonds to pay for long-delayed repairs to Virginia's moldy, historical Capitol and deteriorating, derelict buildings nearby was signed into law by Gov. Mark Warner.
The four-year project will force the General Assembly out of the Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson for only the second time in 200 years. Completion of the project is expected by 2007, the year Virginia marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Settlement.
"The focus of the world will be on the commonwealth. The fact of the matter is that we're going to make sure this centerpiece of democracy in the commonwealth, this centerpiece of democracy in America will be at its shining best for that celebration," Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said.
The building that once housed the Confederate Congress faces substantial problems from destructive mold, antiquated and dangerous wiring and a sodden, fired-brick original foundation that, through the centuries, has begun to revert to soil in places.
The state also will have to consider razing the Finance Building, a structure that has housed the state Supreme Court and the State Library since its completion in 1896.
The 72,418-square-foot building was last occupied by the secretary of the commonwealth in 1999. Now, its brick and plaster cornices are crumbling and falling, wood throughout the building is rotting and water sometimes stands on its floors.
The 80-year-old L-shaped Washington Building on the Capitol's southeastern corner is still occupied but will require a comprehensive renovation to bring it into compliance with modern safety, plumbing, electrical and mechanical codes. The 12-story, 122,980-square-foot structure has no fire-suppression system, and its elevator system is so outdated that its electronic control panel uses 1950s-era vacuum tubes.
Construction on the project is already under way with renovation of the old State Library on the northeastern corner of Capitol Square. Crews are fashioning temporary House and Senate chambers where the General Assembly will hold its 2006 session while the Capitol is cloaked in scaffolding and closed for repairs.
The temple-style Capitol is one of three Jefferson-designed structures that architects and scholars have designated as masterpieces, said Daniel P. Jordan, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The others are the Academical Village at the University of Virginia, which the third president founded, and Monticello, Jefferson's mountaintop home near Charlottesville.
Jefferson was overseas during the time the structure was built, Mr. Jordan said.
The first General Assembly convened in it in October of 1788. Since then, the only year the legislature did not meet in the Capitol was 1849, when a cholera scare in Richmond forced the lawmakers to convene at a hotel in Warrenton.
From 1862 until Richmond fell three years later, the Confederate Congress used the building. Robert E. Lee assumed command of Rebel forces in the building.
In the early 1900s, wings were added to the east and west of Jefferson's original structure with expanded chambers for the Senate and House of Delegates.
In the late 1990s, the state performed a complete overhaul of the Executive Mansion, forcing Gov. James S. Gilmore III and his family to take up residence elsewhere in Richmond for nearly two years.
Former first lady Roxane Gilmore, honorary chairman of the Jamestown 2007 steering committee, said she was delighted that preservation of the other historic structures around the mansion is now assured.
"These efforts are more than just preserving buildings," Mr. Gilmore said.
" The Capitol and the mansion are the hub of economic development and tourism in the commonwealth, and their condition must reflect the vitality and quality synonymous with Virginia's place in the nation."

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