- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s newly restored state Capitol is about to reopen after a $310 million renovation.

The historic building - which originally cost $4.5 million - reopens to the public Tuesday after three years of construction and decades of planning. It’s the first major preservation effort since the Capitol opened in 1905.

Much of the work is not obvious to visitors, the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/2ievEen ) reported. That includes upgraded infrastructure and repairs to the inside and outside of the 111-year-old building, which had been crumbling away.

The Capitol has been mainly off-limits to visitors during the renovation. Both the House and Senate will convene at the Capitol when the 2017 session opens Tuesday. A grand opening of the completed building will be held in August.

But most of the renovation is complete. Former offices have been converted into public gathering spaces. Long-covered skylights have been opened to let in more light, and historic murals have been restored.



The basement was once full of long, dark tunnels with concrete walls and overhanging wires. But it’s now a vibrant space with natural stone walls, tile floors and graceful archways. Next to the refurbished offices of the Capitol press corps is a high-tech room wired for news conferences.

The Capitol’s original century-old plumbing system has been updated. Aged mechanical and electrical systems were replaced, as was the roof. The crumbling stone and deteriorating marble exterior were repaired.

Goals of the project included making safety improvements, such as adding stairwells and sprinklers, adding more elevators and restrooms, and increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, Minnesota Department of Administration spokesman Curt Yoakum said.

Workers repaired parts of walls and the roof damaged by seeping water. They also repaired the decorative marble, which had deteriorated so much in some places that it was a hazard.

“We literally had the marble falling off the building,” Yoakum said.

Famed architect Cass Gilbert modeled his design of the Minnesota Capitol after the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

An estimated 35,000 pieces of marble were marked and cataloged as part of the restoration. About 800 tons of new white marble were quarried from Pickens County, Georgia, the same county where the original marble came from.

Murals on the Capitol’s Rotunda dome and throughout the building were preserved, and about 40 works of art were removed for protection and stored during the restoration.

Yoakum pointed to the lofty Rotunda ceiling and noted how the colors have been returned to their original vibrancy.

“What you don’t see up there is all the plaster damage that had been up there for so many years,” he said.

Guided tours of the Capitol resume Tuesday.

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Online:

Minnesota State Capitol: www.mnhs.org/capitol

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com

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