Additional information:
 » Slideshow of state Capitol renovations

There's a little dust atop the stairs and in the corners, but after 38 months of pounding, ripping and then repairing, Utah's Capitol has been both updated and restored.

The historic building was torn apart beginning in 2004 with three main goals:

• Strengthen the Capitol to withstand a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.

• Restore the original artistic and architectural plans for the building.

• Maintain functionality.

On Friday — the state's 112th birthday — the Capitol will be rededicated in a ceremony that mirrors its first dedication on Oct. 9, 1916. The rededication is by invitation only, but public open houses will be held in the week following the event.

David Hart, architect of the restoration and executive director of the state Capitol Preservation Board, said he is hopeful Utahns will appreciate the work done to the Capitol.

"I hope the people of Utah understand how important and lucky we are to have this building," he said. "This isn't just about the Legislature and the governor being here. It's a treasure from an architectural standpoint."

During construction, nearly everything in the Capitol was touched or moved — including the building itself. In 2005, workers began to remove the Capitol's foundation in order to build a new support structure with seismic base isolators. The isolators are designed to protect the Capitol during an earthquake and will allow it to move up to 24 inches in each direction.

Work on the isolators was finished in April 2007. It took two days to shift the 66,000-ton Capitol onto its new foundation, which included 265 base isolators. Hart said the move was his most worrisome moment of the reconstruction because the Capitol was without a steady foundation, and any one of its floors or the Rotunda could have toppled.

"How do you pick this building up, hold it in place, rip out all its foundations, take out all the underpinnings, put it all back, including the isolators, and not damage the four floors and the Rotunda?" Hart said of the process.

Five years of planning and design work was done before the isolators were installed. The preparation also included a look at fixes to the interior of the Capitol, from historic paint and decor to modern technological additions.

Inside the House Chamber, you'll see a new paint scheme that's consistent with colors intended for the room by architect Richard K.A. Kletting, the Capitol's original designer. On the ceiling of the Rotunda, the once-dim painting of sea gulls has been restored and is now bright and visible from the ground.

Along the Capitol's long corridors, walls have been removed to allow broad pathways of light to stream from windows on each side of the building. The windows previously had been blocked by offices added to accommodate legislators and other state workers.

Judith McConkie, the Capitol's curator, said she has noticed an extraordinary attention to detail during the $212 million reconstruction. She, too, is hopeful the public will take notice, appreciate and treasure the work.

"It goes on and on and on, every detail about this building," McConkie said.


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com