Capitol Restoration Update
After starting scaffolding construction in late July, there are now four elevations of the State Capitol where it is completed.
With the season changing from fall to winter, construction crews have begun enclosing the scaffolding in large, white tarps. These tarps allow the interior scaffolding to be temperature controlled. It’s important to maintain a temperature between 50 and 90 degrees for the proper application of new mortar and epoxies used in some of the stone repairs. Temperature is also an important factor for welding, application of the bonding elements and finishes used to repair the steel window frames and cast iron decorative surrounds. This is being done to ensure the quality and longevity of the work being performed on our historic Capitol.
The stone repair process is well underway. There are various types of repairs being completed depending on the nature of damage to the stone. If a stone is cracked, the crack is injected and when necessary, stainless steel pins are used to stabilize the stone fragments. If a stone has some damage, but the majority of the rest of it can be salvaged, a dutchman repair will be performed. The damaged piece of the stone is cut out and a new piece of stone is grafted onto the original. If the majority of a stone is significantly damaged, it will be removed and replaced. All dutchman and replacement limestone being supplied is Indiana limestone – the same stone formation used in the original construction. Currently, approximately 30 dutchman repairs have been completed or are in process and there have been one of eight replacement stones installed. Where damage to a stone is shallow, the stone is repaired by redressing the surface using power tools. Minor losses will be repaired by patching the stone with specialty mortars that blend with the stone colors.
A key element to ensuring the building remains water-tight for years to come is the mortar joints. There are over 21 miles of mortar joints on the Capitol and the existing mortar in each one must be raked out and replaced. The joints have been raked on three elevations and the initial installation of new mortar has been finished on two elevations of the building, with work scheduled to be completed on the third elevation in the next few days.
In order to return the Capitol’s exterior to its 1917 glory, the exterior stones are going through a rigorous cleaning process. Over time, a black moss-like growth has attached itself to much of the building’s façade, particularly on the north side of the building. Furthermore, a misguided water-repellent treatment procedure many years ago resulted in an inappropriate sealer being applied to the building, causing Oklahoma’s red dirt to stick. This resulted in orange splotches that can be seen over the entirety of the exterior. Construction crews are using hot water, soaking, and a mixture of several chemical treatments to clean away the soiling and stains, resulting in a much-improved look for the majestic structure. Cleaning has been completed on one elevation and will be complete on the second elevation within the next week or so.
The steel window frames and cast iron decorative surrounds were designed specifically for our Capitol and have not been completely refurbished or restored in their 100-year history. At this point, the removable components, consisting of stops, chains, sashes, pulls, locks and pulleys, have been individually tagged and taken out on three elevations and crews are halfway through removal on the fourth elevation. Once removed, the components are taken to a facility in Kansas City to be abated of hazardous materials, sanded, repaired and painted on all sides. New Low-emissivity laminated glass is then installed before they are returned to Oklahoma. In the meantime, on-site crews repair the damaged window frames when necessary and prepare them for reinstallation of the removable components. Presently, window frame repairs have been completed on one elevation and have started on the second elevation. It is expected that the first set of windows will be completed in March.
Over the past few months, the basement of the Capitol has undergone some major changes. Demolition crews have completely gutted the west wing, east wing and most of the north wing. In the process, miles of abandoned cabling was removed, old vent shafts were taken away and degraded plumbing lines bid their final farewell. Demolition has now given way to construction in the west wing. Workers have been removing old concrete in the floor to install trenches for new electrical and sewer lines. Mounds of dirt have been removed via wheelbarrows and conveyer belts. A giant hole was dug to facilitate the construction of a brand-new electrical room that will feed the rest of the building. All of this is being done to modernize the utility infrastructure of this almost 100-year old building. Most of the trenching work is complete in the west wing, and utility line installation is well underway. Crews are now preparing for excavation work to begin at the southwest corner of the Capitol for placement of an emergency power generator, the first in the building’s history. A natural gas line will be installed by Oklahoma Natural Gas to the Capitol, which will supply the generator and the HVAC units that will condition the rotunda.
For people entering the Capitol at the west entrance, a new temporary corridor was installed in November as a way of protecting the public from the construction activity. Those curious about the basement work should take time to walk down the corridor and view the work from windows that have been installed. This was done so the public could feel connected to the work occurring in the People’s House and get a feel for the massive undertaking a project like this represents.
In the center of the Capitol, there are four large utility shafts that run vertically from the basement to the roof. These shafts are colloquially known as the doghouses. Not only do they serve as utility chases, but they also house the four public elevators in the building. In the future, these areas will serve as the backbone of the Capitol for data and electrical wiring along with duct work, which will heat and cool the rotunda. Three of the four elevator shafts will be expanded and new elevators will be added to accommodate more guests. Currently, the southwest doghouse is surrounded by temporary walls as a safety precaution. The elevator has been demolished and removed. Soon, workers will start tearing down the elevator shaft walls and preparing to install the new, expanded shaft walls.
Safety is the utmost priority of the Capitol restoration team. Visitors, staff and elected officials must adhere to instructions on posted signage around construction zones. Nobody should enter a construction zone inside or outside of the building unless they have checked in at the appropriate location and received permission to proceed. For interior construction zones, see Manhattan Construction in room 107. For exterior construction zones, see JE Dunn Construction in the trailers at the northeast corner of the Capitol grounds.
Proper personal protective equipment is required in all construction zones at all times.