- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Work is underway to repair the leaky granite steps leading to the state Capitol in Bismarck, the final phase of a four-year, nearly $5 million renovation of the Depression-era building.

Capitol Facilities Manager John Boyle said the $1.3 million project the work involves removing hundreds of granite blocks, some weighing more than 1,000 pounds, to replace matting beneath them. Water has been leaking from the steps to storage areas below, he said.

Fort Scott, Kansas-based Mid-Continental Restoration Co. is heading the project. Larry Cambers, the company’s project superintendent, said the work is slated for completion in mid-November.

Each of the granite blocks are numbered once they are removed so that they can be refitted in their original location. The blocks are being stored behind the Capitol.

The steps lead to a plaza and the entrance to the Capitol’s Great Hall but the stone stairs are little more than ornamental now. That entrance has been mostly closed for security reasons since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Boyle said the entrance has been opened even less since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cambers’ company previously worked on cleaning the building’s limestone exterior, caulking between the limestone blocks and repairing some structural damage.

“It’s a neat building and one of the more interesting buildings I have ever worked on,” said Cambers, who also has supervised similar work at statehouses in Kansas and Arkansas.

North Dakota’s Capitol, which is among the state’s tallest, was completed in 1934, about four years after the original statehouse burned. It is dominated by a 242-foot tower. Granite, black marble and limestone were used in the construction, with mahogany, walnut and maple featured in the building’s interior.

It was constructed for $2 million, or about $35 million in today’s dollars. Boyle said a recent insurance estimate found that it would cost $189 million to replicate it today.

Boyle said the Capitol’s architects designed the structure to stand for centuries.

“It’s a 500-year building,” he said.

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