- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — For eight months, tourists in Maryland’s capital city won’t be able to get a look inside the 228-year-old State House, where even a mannequin of George Washington has been displaced for badly needed renovations.

It’s the first time that the building, the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use in the country, has been shut down and cleared out for such extensive work on the building’s heating and cooling piping system.

“It’s a little bit of a letdown, but we knew it was going to be closed,” said Zane Lambert, who accompanied a school trip yesterday from Laurel, Miss.

Still, students from Laurel Christian School said they were still having a good time walking around the quaint downtown area and taking in exhibits that have been moved to a nearby office building used by members of the House of Delegates.

“It’s still been pretty fun,” Jessica Tibbs said.

The State House will be fenced off while the work is being done. For the past week, visitors have been gathering outside for tours offered by guides in colonial garb, as moving trucks hauled away materials needed by displaced state workers.

Tour guide Lynn Connor said she still has plenty to show tourists, even if they can’t see the Old Senate Chamber where Washington resigned his military commission in 1783. So far, Miss Connor said most visitors haven’t been too disappointed.

“They’re understanding,” she said.

The State House, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Maryland.

An alternative State House exhibit describes the role of the state capitol in Maryland. It will include furniture from the Old Senate Chamber and reproductions of historic paintings from the State House, including portraits of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence. The exhibits in the House Office Building will be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The State House was vacated Wednesday, with Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and staff members temporarily moving to Baltimore, where the governor has an office in the William Donald Schaefer Tower. House and Senate staff have moved to their respective office buildings nearby.

Heavy construction work already has started inside the State House. Contractors are cutting pipes in the basement, and workers have started opening ceilings on the first floor to gain access to pipes and heating and air-conditioning units, said Dave Humphrey, a spokesman for the state’s Department of General Services.

It’s a big task, and contractors are working during two shifts, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m., Mr. Humphrey said.

The target completion date is mid-December, so the work won’t interfere with the next session of the General Assembly, which convenes in January for its annual 90-day session.

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