Capitol of Light: The People's House
Idaho’s most significant and treasured structure has been given a facelift.
And Idaho Public Television was there to document the return to splendor of the grand old building.
Learn about the difficulties encountered along the way. Discover the stories that abound under the elegantly refurbished dome. Explore the fascinating history of the People’s House, known as the Capitol of Light.
The nine-member Idaho State Capitol Commission is created and charged with completing a Master Plan for the restoration/renovation of the State Capitol Building.
The Legislature appropriates $120,000 and the design team of CSHQA/Isthmus is selected to develop the Master Plan.2000
The Master Plan is completed. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $64 million.2001
The Legislature provides a one-time appropriation of $32 million and authorizes the Commission to issue bonds for the remaining $32 million.2002
The restoration project is temporarily postponed because of projected shortfalls in state revenues. The Commission returns the $32 million appropriation to the State’s General Fund, and withdraws its request to issue bonds.
Nevertheless, the Commission is able to begin work on the restoration of the exterior of the Capitol. Between 2001 and 2002, about $1.5 million is appropriated for the Phase I Exterior Renovation.2003
The Legislature appropriates nearly $3 million to complete the Phase ll Exterior Renovation.2005
The Legislature revives hope for the interior restoration by extending the cigarette tax so that a portion of the revenue collected, beginning in FY07, is deposited into the Permanent Building Fund. The annual amount, estimated at $20 million, is earmarked for the repair, remodel, and restoration of the Capitol and state facilities pertaining to the Capitol restoration.2006
The Legislature authorizes the Capitol Commission and the Department of Administration to enter into agreements with the Idaho State Building Authority to finance the restoration and construction of two 2-story underground wings on each end of the Statehouse.
A total of $130 million is secured in bonds; McAlvain/Hummel, design/build professionals, is hired to begin work on the wings; and, the design team of CSHQA Architects and Lemley/3DI continues to finalize space-use plans of the existing building.
All exterior work is completed on the Capitol.2007
Governor Otter proposes that only the restoration of the existing Capitol be completed and not the addition of the 2-story underground wings. A compromise is reached, to proceed with the addition of two, 1-story underground wings and to reassign the use of the first floor of the Capitol to the Legislature rather than to the Executive Branch.
State officials, including the Governor, move to the old Federal Building, called the Borah Building. Serious work begins on the Capitol and the wings.2008
The Legislature meets in the old Ada County Courthouse—renamed the Capitol Annex—for the start of the legislative session.
Work continues on the Capitol restoration and the one-story underground wings on the east and west sides of the original Capitol building.2009
The Legislature again meets in the Capitol Annex; and work continues on the Capitol.2010
State government moves back to the stately Capitol for the legislative session that begins in January.
They were a partnership made in architectural heaven: John E. Tourtellotte, the brilliant designer and savvy promoter; and Charles F. Hummel, the classically trained architect and civil engineer.
Each provided what the other needed; in fact, you could say that Hummel brought structural strength to Tourtellotte's visionary ideas.
Today you might be inclined to use the phrase "right brain/left brain" to describe these two. Together, they created some of Idaho's remarkable buildings, including Boise's Carnegie Library and St. John's Cathedral, as well as the University of Idaho's Administration Building.
And they designed Idaho's iconic and stately Capitol.
The grandson of Charles Hummel, himself an architect and another Charles, put it this way: "Tourtellotte was the promoter, the visionary. He knew how to get work, and he knew how to talk. He was a designer of some capability. His tastes were pretty Victorian, rather ornate. My grandfather, who was classically trained as an architect in Germany, understood construction thoroughly, and he brought to the firm the classicizing side."
Tourtellotte moved to Boise in 1890. By 1903, he had formed J.E. Tourtellotte & Company. Hummel came to Boise in 1895 and joined the firm in 1903. Eventually, the world would come to know them as the architectural firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel.
For our documentary, we asked actor M.A. Taylor to play the role of John Tourtellotte; and we found our actor an old fashioned Dictaphone, which was in vogue at the turn of the century.
"My grandfather called it a 'talking machine,'" says grandson Charles Hummel. "The only person in the office who really used it in those days was Tourtellotte. That was his forte. He really knew how to promote and how to talk and how to get people to visualize buildings."
It was with the help of his "talking machine" that Tourtellotte composed his essays emphasizing the importance of light to good government.
Even though Tourtellotte and Hummel were well known to Boise residents, getting the commission to design Idaho's new capitol was not a slam dunk for the firm. They first had to beat out eighteen other architects from Idaho and back east. And it was not a unanimous vote by the Idaho Capitol Commission back in 1905. Governor Gooding wanted someone else. But finally, on the third ballot, Tourtellotte and Hummel prevailed.
Perhaps it was the emphasis on light that tipped the scale.
With Hummel by his side to give him a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether his drawings would actually stand up, Tourtellotte designed a capitol with light as its hallmark.
The building was to be flooded with light from skylights, and the interior would reflect light from stark white walls and light-colored marble. Color, when he used it, would pop.
Hummel's grandson has noticed. "Tourtellotte loved skylights, and that white marble and the white colored scagliola flooded with light is one of the real achievements of this capitol."
Or, as Tourtellotte himself wrote: "If the people are well balanced in their ideal and understand... that the great white light of conscience must be allowed to shine and by its interior illumination make clear the path of duty... then this Capitol truly represents the Commonwealth of Idaho."
The nine-member Commission was created by Governor Batt and the Legislature in 1998 and charged with completing a Master Plan for the restoration, refurbishment, and preservation of the State Capitol Building and its grounds, along with a funding program that combines public and private funds to implement the Master Plan.
The design team of CSHQA/Isthmus was chosen to develop the Master Plan, which was completed in 2000.
The Commission’s vision is to restore our Capitol to its original splendor.
Capitol of Light (2010) documents the renovation, remodeling, and expansion of the Capitol, including the addition of the new underground "wings" for senators and representatives.
Exclusive access during construction allowed our cameras to capture the painstaking efforts at restoration of some of the hidden gems of the original building, like Statuary Hall on the 4th floor.
Interviews with architects, contractors, Capitol Commission members, governors and lawmakers provide perspective; while re-enactments bring to life the remarkable John Tourtellotte, who helped create what one critic called "the best of America's capitols."
Actor M.A. Taylor became John Tourtellotte for this production, with the Capitol and the old Carnegie Library providing the backdrop for the re-enactments.
The documentary also explores the rich and colorful history surrounding Idaho's search for a capitol, dating back to events in the 1860's that threatened to split the state asunder.
Known affectionately as "the people's house," Idaho's Capitol building reopened its doors in January, 2010, after a restoration and expansion project that took more than two years and $120 million to complete.
Visitors will see a building that meets all modern safety codes while still retaining the charm and eloquence that the original architects envisioned.
Designed by architects John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel to be "a beacon for noble ideas," the Capitol's massive sandstone walls and stately dome have withstood a century of use. But inside, the people's house was being asked to do the near impossible: to accommodate 21st century demands while still maintaining its 19th century form.
The actual work on the Capitol building commenced in 1905, under the tutelage of two dissimilar architects, John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel. Their collaboration produced a building literally flooded with light, where "all the forces of nature are harnessed and made to serve and contribute to the welfare of man in this building."
This singular building reflects the dreams of the generation that built it; and it continues to hold our attention and love today.
You can watch this 42 minute film online at the IdahoPTV video player.
From Capital to Capitol
From Capital to Capitol (2014) chronicles the 1865 move of Idaho's territorial capital from Lewiston to Boise and explores the interplay between the Idaho Territory and the eventual creation of the state of Idaho.
"The transfer of power from Lewiston to Boise can still raise hackles about 'the stealing of the capital,'" explains producer Bruce Reichert. "This is a period of history that is crucial to understanding Idaho's destiny."
The impetus for the 12-minute video segment was the construction in Lewiston of a replica of Idaho's first territorial Capitol, which housed the first and second territorial legislative sessions. The small building, constructed by volunteer labor, was dedicated in Lewiston in July of 2013.
Historians Keith Petersen and Carole Simon-Smolinski help shed light on the conflict that erupted when Boise replaced Lewiston as Idaho's seat of government, and how decisions made 150 years ago still impact the present. Funding for this program was provided by Idaho's Capitol Commission.
You can watch this short documentary online at the IdahoPTV video player.
When IPTV’s “Assassination: Trial of the Century” was completed in the fall of 2007, I told Bruce Reichert that I’d be delighted to work on any future project that could use an historian. In January of 2009, he took me up on that, asking if I would participate in what became “Capitol of Light.”
Like my work with “Assassination,” the new project was a great deal of fun. It was also a very, very different experience in some ways. Most important, the major character in the show wasn’t a radical labor leader or a hired assassin or an attorney or a judge or a detective; it was a building. And the community that Bruce gathered was a good deal more varied: this time, we had a web designer and someone who specialized in school materials–not to mention Gary Daniel, who was liaison between the Idaho Capitol Commission and just about everyone else and who was a faithful and charming attendee at our weekly koffee klatches.
Except for a few minutes (featuring Mark Anthony Taylor as the building’s co-architect, John Tourtellotte), “Capitol of Light” is not a docudrama. It does, however, include a lot of people speaking on camera: governors, lobbyists, legislators, members of the Capitol Commission past and present, the grandson of Charles Hummel–the other co-architect. Our Charles, retired from architectural practice now but with his expertise available to us, came to one coffee gathering and had such a good time that he continued to come. His presence was invaluable and delightful. And he was filmed for the program largely because of his work on a “redo” nearly 30 years ago. Sitting in on many of those interviews was a new experience for me, and I found them fascinating.
My introduction to the whole enterprise was a tour of the building soon after I signed on. With solid-toed shoes that came above my ankles and a hard hat on my head, I (with others and an escort) poked around a building that was unnervingly different from the capitol I’d been in and out of for 42 years. It was as if its skin and flesh were being stripped off and only the bones left. But over the next year, as we worked on the history of the building and its construction, we also watched new flesh and new skin go on those sturdy bones, put there by remarkable craftsmen. I learned a bit about construction; I also learned a bit about the back-and-forth process of decision making in a major public venture.
Not all of that learning relates to the efforts of 2007-2009. One of my responsibilities was to dig out as much as I could of the story of the capitol’s location and construction. Once again my former colleagues at the Idaho State Historical Society were welcoming and very helpful as I worked through boxes of the original Capitol Commission’s papers as well as those of the superintendent of construction, Herbert Quigley. (Several of us would like to see a lot more work done on Quigley, who was a most interesting and very competent character.) Then it was off to the newspapers, primarily Boise’s Idaho Statesman, to find out more about the nitty-gritty of the original project. Projects, really, since the central portion of the capitol was built and occupied before bids were even let on the wings. I learned about outrage at trees being removed; sound familiar? I learned about charges of misfeasance, of bribes and faulty construction; a particularly colorful episode is described in Royce Williams’ essay “Expletive Deleted” elsewhere on this site. I also learned–from both manuscript collections and newspapers–about the progress of the construction itself, decisions that had to be made on the fly, choices of material, equipment bought and then loaned elsewhere when it was not needed at the capitol.
And then there were the photographs. I had learned from a friend, who’d been involved with restoration of the capitol’s exterior after a fire some years ago, that Quigley’s papers contained several remarkable images. Indeed: one shows a car being hoisted by a crane...as its occupants wave at the camera! Other treasures are in the historical society’s collections, including a set of images taken from the upper levels of construction and looking right down at the streets. Those aren’t official photographs; they were taken by Murray Badgeley, who worked for the federal government and lived on the grounds of Fort Boise at the time. Anyone with vertigo or a fear of heights should not look at Badgeley’s pictures.
In the midst of all this, early in the summer of 2009, I suffered a serious injury that kept me completely housebound for six weeks and unable to drive for six months. No more Wednesday-morning coffees–at least not until we worked out a way for my husband to drop me off downtown and one of my colleagues on the project to drive me home in a vehicle I could get into. Trips to the library, with patient and kindly chauffeurs, couldn’t resume until fall either. But “Capitol of Light” didn’t go away, and it did a great deal to preserve my sanity. Thanks to Boise Public Library’s cardholder access to the Statesman on line, I could continue to explore its coverage of construction, controversy, and alleged scandal. And thanks to e-mail I could continue to review and edit various parts of the script. I might not be able to explore continued construction at the capitol or join my colleagues for coffee until near the end of the project, but I was still part of the “Capitol of Light” community. Bruce (in particular) and my other colleagues will never know how deeply grateful I am to them for sticking with me.
When the capitol was rededicated in January of 2010, I was (unavoidably) at a meeting in San Diego. My historian colleagues there didn’t understand at first why I had to be in my hotel room, glued to my laptop screen, to watch live streaming of the ceremonies. Didn’t understand, that is, until they heard my stories of doing “Capitol of Light.”
...the great white light of conscience must be allowed to shine and by its interior illumination make clear the path of duty...
—John Everett Tourtellotte, Capitol architect, 1913
Light is the signature of Idaho’s Capitol building.
Capturing light, which is nowhere because it is everywhere, posed Tourtellotte’s greatest challenge in the design of the Capitol. The building required the heaviness of stone so that it would remain through time as a singular example of Idahoans’ spirit and enduring commitment to good government. Nothing, however, blocks out light quite as well as stone does.
While Tourtellotte knew that stone would be the best holding pen for light, he knew, too, that light can only be invited in; it cannot be held in any space. Extending every invitation to light, but doing that and keeping the stone’s qualities of strength and endurance must have kept Tourtellotte awake nights.
It is unclear whether or not the answer to this puzzle came to Tourtellotte in a flash or after a long inner struggle between clashing symbols. Some of his writing suggests a long struggle to meld the two concepts. Writing about the ancient architecture of Egypt, Greece and Rome, he saw the love of light and the effects it could create when viewed in outside light, but he had a sour opinion of the inside of these buildings, calling the interiors damp, gloomy, cold, mysterious, even superstitious.
Writing about Idaho’s Capitol at its grand opening, Tourtellotte said the building “is not a cave with ornamental colonnades on the interior standing in superstitious darkness and gloom; neither is it a decorative shell enclosing a gloomy unornamented interior, damp cold and uninviting….
“The interior is flooded with light during the day and at night is ablaze with brilliancy without shadow or dark nooks,” he continues. He made constant references to light, both in terms of making the work that went on inside the building easier to get done and as a symbolic reference to that work being open and clearly visible to the citizens of the state.
When there was some doubt about the appropriation being sufficient to include the cupola atop the Capitol, consultants were called in from east of the Mississippi. They said a good chunk of money could be saved by losing the cupola. But Tourtellotte saw this piece of the construction as the source of what he called “heavenly light.” The arguments and counter arguments are unclear, but obviously Tourtellotte dug in his heels on the cupola, and it still lights the huge rotunda. And white is the dominant color inside the building, almost luring more light, either plain or heavenly. Sky lights on the east and west sides of the Capitol (added in 1920) light the House of Representatives and the State Senate chambers. Most early elected officials working in the building were farmers and ranchers, so they didn’t need a watch. The angle of the light told them when it was time to go to work, to break for lunch, and when to go home for the day.
What the light lights inside the building is very subtle color, mostly used as trim to the white spaces. The color is lit; it never competes with the light. In the compass on the floor of the rotunda is gray marble that matches the Sawtooths, green marble that matches sagebrush, and restricted use of red marble that suggests certain species of salmon.
The exterior of the building takes advantage of free light. It is hard sandstone quarried from Table Rock just east of the Capitol. Its color blends into the foothills behind the building, but is cut to stand out from its surroundings. The stone on the ground floor is cut to resemble log construction in pioneer cabins, then the blocks, quarried by prisoners, climb 208 feet to the golden eagle forever preparing to launch itself from the cupola.
It is hard to pin an architectural style onto Tourtellotte, and he liked it that way. In other buildings he designed before the Capitol — the old Park School in Boise, the Carnegie Library in Boise, Shoshone Episcopal Church, Mackay Episcopal Church, St. John Cathedral in Boise — there is every style from Egyptian to Prairie, sometimes a variety of styles found in a single building. A Gothic arch in a Greek building might suggest a clash of styles, but apparently Tourtellotte found such mixing a challenge. More often than not, he made it work.
Idaho’s Capitol is generally referred to as Beaux Arts (Fine Arts in plain English). But that’s a handy handle. Tourtellotte took full advantage of the plural arts and fitted together whatever architectural styles he considered fine. The fitting together of styles usually had a reasonable and overriding principle that required more attention than a particular style.
In the case of Idaho’s Capitol, that overriding principle is light.
Tourtellotte puts it this way: “(It) is flooded with light. Its rotunda, corridors and interior as a whole is nearer perfect in this respect than any building of its kind perhaps in the world.”
When architect John Everett Tourtellotte took one of his flights of fancy in the design of Idaho’s Capitol, it was his partner Charles F. Hummel who packed his parachute.
Could we have been flies on the wall 100 years ago, a short conversation might have gone this way:
Tourtellotte: “Let’s bust up this east wall over here with a row of windows¸ a kind of Prairie Style approach, that will bring the morning sun right onto the desks in that space…”
Hummel: “Nice, John, but that wall’s got to stand up; it’s got to take wind loads that’ll mostly be coming from the northwest, so it’s got to brace the back wall and you’ve already got that wall full of windows…”
The two men would have used words of their era, but, continuing with the might-have-been, Hummel would be called geeky. Born in Dobel, Baden, Germany, he received his architectural training in Stuttgart, Germany. He spent two years in Switzerland (1876-1878), where he worked as a civil engineer. After finishing technical school, he worked as a draftsman and lived in Freiburg and Renchen, Baden, German. This experience can be squeezed into a single word — precision.
He married Marie Konrad in Renchen in 1882, and three of their six children were born in Germany. Hummel moved to Chicago in 1885, and worked as a carpenter, then moved west to Seattle in 1890. He was working as a draftsman and house builder there and sent for his wife and two sons, Ernest and Frederick C. (A daughter, Julia, died in Germany.) The family moved again to Anacortes and Everett in 1890, where they lived until 1895. Two sons, Frank K and Werner, were born after this move.
The Financial Panic of 1893 that closed all U.S. banks left the family devastated economically. Hummel and his wife were at a pier scraping scallops off one of the piles for supper, when Hummel noticed a flyer lying on the beach. The promotional flyer had been published by the predecessor of the Boise Chamber of Commerce and touted the prospects for success in the Boise Valley because of the boom in irrigated agriculture. The family moved to Boise in 1895, and Hummel went to work that year with the J.E. Tourtellotte Company. Hummel was 38 years old. A daughter, Marie, was born in Boise, but she died as a child.
It is astounding today when architectural drawings are measured by weight rather than page numbers that the original drawings for the Capitol that have been found covered less than 40 pages. And it is somewhat mysterious that Hummel’s name does not appear on any of those pages. If there was a shingle hanging in front of the T.E. Troutellotte & Co. at 215 Overland Building in Boise, Hummel’s name wasn’t added as a partner until 1912. However, he was there and working on the building from the beginning of construction in 1905.
Evidence of Hummel’s work and influence on the building reflect the omission of his name on the plans. His contributions aren’t always obvious. The fact that workers had to dig down 20 feet to river rock before they began pouring a foundation shows Hummel’s attention to detail. His tight calculations set weight limits at the base of all the Corinthian columns around the rotunda. It couldn’t be more than 200 pounds per square inch. His work shows up in the steel specs for the centers of the columns and in the engineering involved in transforming hot springs into winter heat for the building. He was building “green” before green was cool. The soaring dome on the Capitol soars because of Hummel’s precise calculations on the angles and riveting of the web of steel support for it.
Hummel’s specifications for the tensile strength of steel beams gave Superintendent of Construction Herbert E. Quigley a lot of headaches. Suppliers said finding the specified steel was difficult and getting it way out to Idaho was a logistic nightmare. Hummel wouldn’t budge. The result was steel still standing, and Quigley buying the derricks to lift it, hiring workers only when he had the right steel, and putting mumbling factory reps back on the train going east.
The Hummels would stay in Boise, with Charles’ two sons, Frederick and Frank, joining the firm. The Tourtellotte name would leave the shingle, but Hummel Architects PLLC is still listed in the Boise directory at 2785 North Bogus Basin Road. It is possible a Tourtellotte or two could still be in Boise, but if so, they have cellphones.
Tourtellotte and Hummel probably were an excellent team, each one making the other’s dreams a reality and each coming into the dream from a different route.
The Idaho Statehouse as we know it today was the forty-fifth state capitol to be built in the United States. Only five other states have newer capitols—Washington, Oregon, Utah, Alaska, and Hawaii. With so many examples it’s reasonable to look at the origins of our capitol’s shape and style—its design family tree. In that tree there are thirty-five domed state capitols including ours. Among the fifteen without domes there are some whose shape and style are essential to the design of the rest. The significance of all of them, in the estimation of architectural historians, is that skyscrapers and capitols are America’s unique contribution to the monumental architecture of the world. Skyscrapers—which unite structure and function—capitols which function as symbols of democracy.
All of the states have capitols with similar histories beginning with their territorial capitols or colonial statehouses. What distinguished them in colonial times was the need to accommodate a royal governor and one assembly. After the adoption of the Constitution our colonial statehouses were obsolete. Their successors had to accommodate an elected governor and two assemblies. The floor plans for two occupants became floor plans for three. A three-part building form often resulted and was typical for many of the new capitols. The form itself began to be regarded as a symbol of the American system.
But there are important exceptions, particularly the Virginia Capitol built in 1785 with directions sent from France by Thomas Jefferson where he was America’s representative. It is a single rectangle with a gabled front portico supported on six Corinthian columns and a classical cornice. Its model was the Roman temple in Nimes known as the Maison Caree. Jefferson asked that it be called a capitol—not a statehouse like its colonial predecessor in Williamsburg. He was thinking of Rome’s Capitoline Hill, the seat of the ancient Roman Republic, with its connotations of civic duty and heroic virtue. Gabled and columned entry porticos and the decorations of classical Rome became symbols of the ideals of the American Republic. The United States Capitol and virtually every state capitol followed that convention.
The Maryland capitol in Annapolis is another significant exception to capitols with three-part facades. Construction was started by its rambunctious colonial assembly in 1774, two years before the Declaration, and continued building it during the Revolution until its completion in 1779. Its plan is a big square with two assembly rooms flanking a central area for the executive and a large entry and gathering space with stairs leading to the upper floor. The need for daylight in this large interior prompted the builders to construct an impressive octagonal wood tower with many windows above the gathering space and projecting it high above the roof of the second story. The volume and height of the tower’s open interior ringed with second floor balconies created an impressive space and attracted the attention of other designers. The exuberance of its design was completed with the later addition of a small dome topped by an accessible cupola surrounded by a viewing balcony.
The Maryland Capitol was built of brick and wood and it otherwise resembled the Georgian colonial style buildings built prior to the Revolution. The force of that interior space and its potential as a dome influenced the design of other capitols and eventually that of the United States Capitol.
The Massachusetts State House of 1795 was the product of Charles Bullfinch, a Boston aristocrat, who studied in Europe and England where he admired London’s recently constructed Somerset House which continues today as a government building. Prior to landing the Massachusetts commission he designed the Connecticut Capitol in Hartford which impressed the Massachusetts Commission but few of its features were used in Boston.
The plan of the Massachusetts State House is a shallow rectangle entered on the long side up a wide outside stairway to the elevated main floor. A two-story portico extends across half of the entry side. The main floor level of the portico is an arcade supporting an upper level terrace whose flat roof is supported on Corinthian columns. The building walls of the upper floors are smooth finely jointed stone. The masonry walls of the ground floor are rusticated. It is virtually the design of Somerset House.
Bullfinch topped off the Massachusetts State House with a large hemispherical wood dome which rises over a gabled attic set back from the building front. The main house of the Massachusetts legislature sits in grandeur below it. It is not quite as grand as the dome of the Roman Pantheon but the symbolic content is evident.
In 1793 the design of the United States Capitol was awarded to an amateur architect whose work was supervised by three professionals, notably James Hoban, who designed the north wing in a style similar to contemporary English buildings. His design was a three- part plan with matching wings separated by a central rotunda. He was succeeded by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, a fully trained architect, who finished the north wing and started the south wing which was underway when it was destroyed in 1814 by the British in the War of 1812. Restoration was commenced by Latrobe but he resigned after a dispute with President Madison. The restoration and completion of the wings and the central rotunda was completed in 1830 under the direction of Charles Bullfinch. The design for the East Front of the rotunda with a wood dome was essentially that of his Massachusetts State House.
By 1850 it was evident that Congress and the Supreme Court needed more space. Thomas U. Walter was commissioned to design and supervise the addition of new north and south wings and an extension to the west. But Walter’s supreme achievement was the removal of the Bullfinch dome and its replacement in 1861 with the cast iron dome and its cupola with the figure of Liberty. By 1863 the Capitol was essentially completed as we see it today and Walter resigned in 1865.
Well before its final completion the United States Capitol became the great symbol of the Republic. Idaho’s Capitol was bound to be designed in its image. Of course it is considerably smaller than the Washington model but it has been noted that the proportions and details of the dome are closer to those of the national capitol than most of its predecessors. It also inherited the other symbols that came down through the family tree—the decorative details of the Classical Revival, the grand front stairs, the gabled entry portico supported on Corinthian columns.
They are important but the great achievement of its designers is the impact of the rotunda’s space with the soaring interior of the dome and the bright white and muted grays of its marble and scagliola. The Capitol is organized around its superb rotunda and it is truly a celebration of light.
Scagliola (scal-lee-ola) is that thin coating on a column that turns its plain old steel, brick, and concrete innards into the art of human aspirations. It is the evidence of our better selves that resembles marble, thus committing to the ages those dreams our words cannot bridge. It is not the marble of quarries; it is marble made by us, making it somehow more important than the stone.
If you’re interested in making scagliola, you won’t have a lot of competition. It is difficult to make and easy to screw up and takes thousands of man-hours, and just about anything can throw the process awry at any step in the process. It’s basically art from glue, so it’s a sticky mess until it’s done. But when its done right, it takes on that milky sheen, with no glare, that is pleasing to the eye. It draws the eye, in fact, for it suggests geologic magic in dark, hot places far underground where real marble is forged.
Classic scagliola begins with a silk sheet stretched over a marble table. White animal glue is applied, and raw silk threads with knotted ends soaked in earth pigments are pulled through the wet mixture like a string puzzle on a child’s hands. This process gives a final marbling that’s fine-grained, a spider’s-web effect.
For columns like those in the Idaho Capitol, the process is a bit more straightforward. The thin bed of glue-plaster (sometimes a new white cement called Keene cement) is laid down on a canvas—sailcloth or burlap. Then artists are called in, not with brushes but with trowels, and they apply earth pigments swirled with a lot of wrist action.
The art is to get the splotches, swirls, bubbles of marbling into the mix in random shapes, dispersed so that the underlying color isn’t overpowered. Before the mixture sets, it is wrapped around a column—canvas on the outside; smoothed out; and allowed to dry some more. At just the right time, the canvas is peeled away, leaving a somewhat pitted surface that has to be rubbed, sanded in shifts of finer and finer consistency, then polished. The result looks a bit like those old pieces of oilcloth that were used as tablecloths 50 years ago. The Capitol’s scagliola is about 3/32 inch thick.
Yes, there is a seam when panels or the ends of panels join on the column. Never in a thousand years would anyone be lucky enough to get the random pattern on one side to match the pattern on the other side. Again, the artist is called in. The seam is treated like any other crack in a column that needs repairing. A swirl that starts on one side is carried over to the other side. An arabesque that’s missing a “besque” on the other side has to have one painted in. If two white areas collide, the “crack” has to be filled and sanded smooth.
We have looked for seams in the white and sagebrush green of the large columns around the rotunda of Idaho’s Capitol, but we can’t see them. In the current rehab work, other things have been found: gobs of Juicy Fruit chewing gum from maybe the 1950s; nicotine stains perhaps from a 1920s legislator’s cigar; holes punched to hold a poster announcing a public hearing; plain old dirt; tape that held a paper plate telling family members where to meet the rest of the family; peanut butter and jelly from the hands of someone who tried to reach around a column; chipped spots where a dolly got away from somebody; varnish and yellowing shellac….
EverGreene Architectural Arts, whose president and executive project director, Jeff Greene, is a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, is working on the two basic styles of columns in Idaho’s Capital—Roman Corinthian and Greek—that reflect the original architect’s penchant for mixing styles in buildings he designed. Bases and shafts of both columns are similar, but the styles can be separated by the flared tops, called capitals.
The Corinthian columns around the rotunda and at the front and back entrances have capitals designed to resemble, not potato leaves, but a foliage plant that grows around the Mediterranean. The acanthus leaves are deeply slotted and curved, lending a symmetrical and full flare to the columns. Those in Idaho’s Capitol are the most fluid and complex—the Renaissance style. Corinthian column shafts can be smooth, as are those around the rotunda, or slotted, as they are at the north and south entrances.
Removing old paint (as many as 15 coats of it) from these leaves and filling in the chipped plaster of their construction took days of work with tools as small as toothpicks and nail files to sharp putty knives. Even with plastic gloves, there were some scraped knuckles. To protect themselves from possible old lead paint, the workers resembled surgeons more than painters.
Greek columns are usually smooth, and their capitals are clean, straightforward scrolls. These smaller columns stand in a circle at the back of each of the mezzanines around the central rotunda and can be found in various spaces on each of the building’s four main floors.
If you weren’t asleep in Art Appreciation 101, you know that columns hold up an entablature—a very decorative or very straight-lined grouping of architraves, friezes, dentils, all topped with a cornice. Between the capital and the architrave is a thin, level piece of stone called the abacus. If you took home an A in AA-101, you know that the sky’s the limit on what can decorate entablatures, but the dentils are always what their name suggests: teeth.
EverGreene (out of New York City, Oak Park, Illinois, and Oakland, California) recounts a rich history for scagliola. It has been used for at least 1,500 years; it has been found in Egyptian tombs. The formula was kept secret for centuries, usually available only from very dedicated monks; but the secret leaked out, and it became popular in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries mostly because nature doesn’t make curved marble. And the colors on nature’s palate don’t stretch as far as some have wanted.
The faux marble fad died out, however, and by the 1920s so did many of the artisans who knew the essentials of the intricate work. Starting from a few notes and hints in old correspondence, books, and interviews, Jeff Greene finally figured out, if not the best way, his workable way of making marble as beautiful as or more beautiful than the real thing.
If you take the Idaho Territorial Seal and the Constitution out of a locked safe and put them in a saddlebag, telling only those who agree, then take them from Lewiston to Boise, is that just a move or is it theft?
Back in 1864, representatives from the Northern section of Idaho Territory gnashed teeth, stomped and called it grand theft, even threatened to leave Idaho and join the Washington Territory.
No, said representatives from Southern Idaho, it was just a move that brought the capital to where the people were. The people of the time were gold miners. The gold had played out around Lewiston, and Boise Basin fields were opening, the country around Idaho City being a major one. There was a surge of miners to Southern Idaho after the 1862 discoveries, along with the farmers who started clearing sagebrush around Boise to feed the miners, an Army base, and businessmen setting up shop to sell all of them anything they needed. All of it left the Lewiston area essentially de-peopled.
Since there was no Supreme Court in place at the time to call it either theft or move, and the territorial governor, a New Yorker named Caleb Lyon who was ambivalent about his middle-of-nowhere assignment, was out-of-territory, the arguments raged as only arguments can in a gridlocked and leaderless bevy of politicians.
Depending on where you lived in Idaho, the dastardly deed or official move occurred on March 29, 1865. With Lyon absent, the newest Territorial Secretary (Secretary of State) Clinton DeWitt Smith named himself acting governor. He went to nearby Fort Lapwai, brought a contingent of soldiers to the Lewiston Capitol building, broke into the building, loaded the Territorial Seal and as many official papers that would fit in his saddlebags, and headed to Boise. They were on the road (make that trail) for 16 days, arriving in Boise on April 14. This seems a long time, but the group probably wasn't familiar with the foul weather that can hit in early spring in the high prairies and rugged canyons between the two cities.
Foul! the Northerners cried. But Smith had seen the out-migration of miners as he rode into Lewiston. He had arrived on March 2, 1865.
The Northerners had thought they had a tight grip on the capital. The first territorial governor President Abraham Lincoln had sent west in 1863, a man named William H. Wallace, had picked Lewiston as the capital city. It seemed a good choice. The city at that time was larger than Olympia, Seattle, and Portland put together. It was also the closest Idaho city to his residence in Washington. His temporary territorial secretary, a man named Silas Cochran, appears to have been for keeping the Lewiston site. But a permanent secretary (Smith) can over-rule a temporary one.
How did they get into this knotty mess? Part of it was the dozen territorial governors appointed between territory and statehood. Few of them, it seems, wanted to tackle the enormous problems presented by a corduroy piece of country full of people at odds over almost everything.
It came to a slight head with the first legislative session in December of 1863. More southerners showed up than northerners, and even Wallace must have seen what was coming. It came when the southerners introduced a bill to move the capital to Boise. A representative named H.C. Riggs (a Democrat) introduced the bill, but northerners managed to get the bill tabled at that session, and everybody went home without a decision on where the capital was to be. It wasn't tough to know which site Riggs favored. He had named his son Boise, and he carved Ada County out of Boise County, naming it after his daughter.
But a funny thing happened in that first session. Apparently by mistake, the first session set two dates for the second session - one on November 14, 1864, and another on January 1, 1865.
Everybody showed up on November 14, this time with even more southern representatives. Arguments filled with spit and vitriol replaced debate, but the southerners managed to maneuver the Boise capital bill through the legislative mill. Governor Lyon signed the bill.
Northerners sued. They said that the legislature should have met in January instead of November, and everything passed during the November session was invalid. With no Supreme Court, a Lewiston judge heard the case and upheld the northerners' plea. Probate Judge John G. Berry locked up territorial records and said that if Lyon or Cochran or anyone else tried to remove them, they would be arrested and jailed.
Cochran apparently didn't want to remove them, and Lyon was out-of-territory, so Cochran, after traveling to Washington to talk to Lyon, declared that since Lyon was out of the territory, his signing of the bill was not binding. He refused to lend a hand by opening the safe for troops sent to the capitol by Lyon. Enter Smith, the permanent territorial secretary. He personally oversaw the move-theft on horseback to Boise. Smith had been chased to the Snake River ferry by U.S. Marshal Joseph K. Vincent, who waved Judge Berry’s warrant for Smith’s arrest. While the troops kept the marshal at bay, Smith made it to the ferry, and he didn’t stop until he was across the river and into Washington Territory.
Smith arrived in Boise April 14, 1865, and made a short speech on the balcony of the Overland Hotel. He said he was among friends. A large crowd of Boise residents was there to cheer him.
“I feel welcome now, for it seems to me that I have got among my friends. It is the first time I have felt so since I arrived in the territory,” he said. He said he planned to stay in Boise, then left the balcony after saying he was very tired.
Smith’s arrival in Boise got little press coverage, for he had arrived on the same night President Abraham Lincoln, the man who had appointed him territorial secretary, was shot at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
That wasn't the end of the story.
A Supreme Court came into being in 1866, and since the original lawsuit had not been settled at the territorial level, the court finally reconsidered the case and ruled, two to one, that Boise was the one and only capital city. However, the action is recorded only in court minutes. An official opinion was never written.
And Smith did not live to see his actions upheld by the high court. While on an inspection trip to the quartz mines at Rocky Bar, he fell over dead during a game of chess. His obituary in the Walla Walla Statesman said he died August 14, 1865, and was buried on the spot “with the usual manifestation of mourning.”
Any public building, especially one as central, visible and historic as a state capitol, draws controversies like a magnet in a bucket of metal shavings.
The charges and counter-charges play out like a love triangle on a cruise ship. Sometimes there's an obvious smoking gun complete with fingerprints, but more often there's just the prolonged grating sound of axes grinding. And getting to the bottom of one can cost as much or more than the amount claimed to have been misspent. Investigations are never cheap. Any time you announce that you want to build a capitol and you want to do it with human beings, it's like opening a floodgate in the middle of the rainy season.
Anybody who isn't next door to the site is sure it's in the wrong place. Occupied by two, sometimes three, political parties, the site becomes the center of great effort to sway public opinion to and from the party in power. Those who bid on the project - and there were 19 bidding on the Capitol in 1905 - is among the good places to find a sore loser. The best laid plans and designs are bound to miss a few details, and the details that are there can get lost in translation anywhere between the architect and a subcontractor. Make restoration a part of the project, and you can find a spendy or time-eating surprise under every pried plank. The humans who are doing the work or watching it are real people with a plethora of agendas. In other words, the Capitol has been a controversy minefield.
The Motherlode Controversy
His name was John W. Smith, and he was a Boise architect who had bid on the contract to design the Capitol. He wasn't awarded the contract, and his actions following the rejection make him the top-ranking sore loser of the entire project. Only one of his buildings, one that shows he had talent, still stands in Boise at the corner of 8th and Idaho and is called the Fidelity Building. It is not hard to see why there's only one of his buildings still around. What is hard to see is when he would have had time to design any more, being so busy challenging nearly every aspect of the Capitol's construction.
Boise's Capitol News managed to cram most of the charges into an article appearing on October 22, 1912. Apparently without checking into any of the allegations, the paper published Smith's list:
“Grand Jury is probing into alleged scandals in the Capitol Construction.”
Following this headline is a long list including “reckless and unwarranted disbursement of funds, conversion of state property to private use, failure to advertise the bonds for the new state capitol according to the lawâ€¦.
“Now being probed by the Ada County Grand Jury, it is said, (are charges involving) allowing extras with no provisions having been made by law, changes in the terms of the contract and in the specifications unfairly made, alterations in the plans and diagrams authorized without proper protection of the state, and other things having been done by the commission and the architect in direct and positive violation of the express provisions of the contract.”
Then Smith gets personal. “We intend to demand of the (Capitol) commission and the architect what has been done with every cent of money that has been expended, how each and every allowance was made, why the changes in the specifications were allowed, what has become of several thousand feet of lumber that the state bought, what has become of the material and other goods that was bought by the state with no accountingâ€¦ (W)e charge absolute incompetency and inability on the part of the architect in the management of the construction of the Capitolâ€¦.”
Named in Smith's barrage were Gov. James H. Hawley, O.V. Allen, state treasurer, D.C. McDougall, attorney general, and John E. Tourtellotte, supervising architect. One allegation made earlier by Smith - that the marble stairs winding up from the first to second floors were insufficient in strength - backfired on him. A widely circulated picture of the same steps loaded with 30,000 pounds of cement took the wind out of that sail.
Grand jury deliberations are not public. If the grand jury did consider any of the charges, there was no mention of it in any of the public indictments announced at the end of its session. Also, the Capital News and The Idaho Statesman were competitive newspapers in Boise, the Statesman being generally supportive of the commission and the construction, with the News looking to scoop its competition.
The State Senate took up the issue, with the Republicans submitting a majority report that exonerated the accused and said other charges were not proved. Democrats had submitted a minority report that said the major charges had been proved by the investigation, and the grand jury should look at them.
The great furniture flap
It's the spring of 1912, and State Treasurer Orien V. Allen, a member of the Capitol Commission, runs a furniture store in Boise called Allen-Wright Furniture Company. His wholesale supplier is Wollaeger Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee. Wollaeger is chosen among several bidders to supply furniture for the new Capitol. The specs said the state would pay no more than $45,500 for all the chairs, desks, couches, drapes, etc.
Another bidder was one Arthur F. Folts, who ran another furniture store in Boise, one his stationery said sold “furniture worth while.” Folts was quick to say he smelled a rat. In a “letter to the voters of Idaho,” Folts wrote that Allen took advantage of other members of the Commission's Purchasing Committee, men who didn't know the difference between mohair plush and silk plush drapes, selling them on Wollaegers.
Folts' allegations strongly suggested the furniture contract was really with Allen-Wright Furniture, and Wollaegers was just listed as a blind. He said the state was getting second-rate furniture with price tags that didn't say cheap, even though the total reached $45,500, giving somebody about $15,000.
In a letter to architect John E. Tourtellotte, then in Milwaukee checking out the furniture, Construction Supervisor Herbert E. Quigley said there had been one error in the spec sheets given to bidders. He said a circular desk and fewer filing cabinets than needed went to bidders, but this set was later revised to more filing cabinets and a square desk. The error was that Wollaegers did not receive the revised specs with additions. Folts did get the revised specs with additional filing cabinets and a square desk. The square desk saved about $267. His letter doesn't indicate how much extra the additional filing cabinets cost for the Pure Food Inspector, who said he needed them after the first specs were printed.
After Folts circulated his letter, reporters began to ask questions. Allen, worried about what the scandal would do to his bid for another term as state treasurer, convinced the commission chairman that he benefited in no way by the contract with his furniture supplier, said his employees would help in no way with installing anything in the contract, and offered to resign from the commission. Quigley said the error on Page 11 of the specs was being blown out of proportion; they would just have to take their lumps on that one, and should simply negotiate with Wollaegers to get the best they could for the state - furniture that no one would question on quality.
Gov. James H. Hawley must have had his ear to the ground on the issue, for there is a letter to him from Tourtellotte & Hummel telling him what the state was getting. The letter says that after intense negotiations, the total cost of the contract was $35,000, with the state getting some furniture more expensive than the specs called for and some cheaper, but all of it “very excellent in construction and beautiful in appearance.” Wollaegers was described as being cooperative, since the firm was concerned about its business reputation.
“The right has been reserved in the specifications for us to take to pieces any one piece of furniture of each type... if we wish, and the company must stand the expense of replacing the same. This penalty is made more severe by the power of the architects to reject every piece of furniture of the same type if the piece destroyed is not up to specifications,” the letter said.
As Quigley said they would do, any savings in the furniture budget ($10,500 in this case) would be transferred to other budget items nearing or in the red ink category.
No political party can resist the slightest opportunity to advocate saving taxpayer money, and both parties have come to agree that accepting the lowest bid on any public project is the way to go.
While it does save money, the low-bid philosophy has its negative side. For example, a state agency can save money with low bid but can also spend a lot of money training an employee for years, then risk it all by sending that employee to North Idaho in a plane with a low-bid pilot. In recent years, exceptions have been allowed in the bidding process to solve this problem.
However, low-bid was king when the central portion of the Capitol was just off the drafting table and foundations were being poured. There was a rush to get the building done and the legislative sessions into it, and there was a move afoot to save $75,000 at the same time. That was the cost of the dome on the building. Leading the no-dome contingent was a member of the Capitol Commission, Secretary of State Wilfred L. Gifford (later secretary of the commission).
The controversy boiled down to who had the most or the most prominent advisory architects. Tourtellotte found the dome critical to his design around the use of skylights for interior lighting and to give the Capitol the artistic impression of solemn aspirations of good government. Along with Commissioner Orien V. Allen, he traveled to the national Capitol.
The trip was covered this way in the Statesman: “After conference with the supervising architect of the treasury and other eminent eastern architects, they have concluded that the exterior plan of the building shall not be changed in any material respect and the dome will go on as originally planned.”
The next day's edition, however, had Gifford's response to the report: “You may quote me as saying that I am opposed to putting so much money in a portion of the Capitol which is purely ornamental, and which some of the best architects of the country consider poor architecture.
“As to the artistic features of the plan, that I am not qualified to speak of. I do object to spending $140,000 (unclear where this figure comes from) to finish the dome as is now planned and should think that it might be materially cut down from all I can learn and not injure in the least the architectural effect and at the same time save the state a good large sum,” he continued.
If you have driven down State Street or Capitol Boulevard in the last 10 minutes, you can see who won that round. There were some money-saving changes in the original dome design, but they are not readily visible.
Give it elbow room!
The Capitol grounds - too much or too little - have often been discussed, but the issue has never really risen to the controversy level.
Early on, a member of the Nebraska Capitol Commission came to Boise to look at the state's new Capitol. While he liked the building, he thought it should have been farther north, placed on a hill overlooking the city and surrounded by a large park to include plenty of trees for the City of Trees.
The original Capitol Commission had little money to buy land and still have enough to build the Capitol. By using the lot where the Territorial Capitol had stood, they only had to buy one more lot and close one street. In some ways, the smaller grounds fit well. Boise is a walk-about city, and if you need to get to the Capitol in a hurry, you don't have to walk a quarter-mile running into commemorative trees, thorny rose gardens, and muddy petunia beds. Its small size also cut down on grounds-keeping expenses.
More recently, some have lamented the fact that the entire Capitol is visible nowhere on Capitol Boulevard. But the dome and ceremonial south entrance are visible. Buildings along Capitol Boulevard had to be designed for height to function, and the height needed a first floor that took all the space available at ground level. If setbacks had been enforced years ago, the mature trees in the small park in front of the Capitol would still have blocked a full view today.
Considerable discussion took place about whether or not to put the expansion above or below ground level. It is difficult to see how an above-ground plan would have worked well. With steps at both ends, the building would have butted against 6th and 8th streets; if the additions had gone higher to give the same space, they would have required entrances behind the House and Senate chambers inside - a design that would have increased traffic around both. And, it is hard to see how the additions could have been designed to prevent them looking like add-on sheds, albeit fancy ones.
The underground additions have skylights over both the main halls and hallways to offices, which keeps Tourtellotte's original and unique use of natural light. There will not, however, be large trees on the east and west sides of the building. The dirt placed over the structure is not deep enough to support anything larger than shrubs. It could be argued that there is a mistake here in the landscaping: the shrubs could have been syringa, the state flower.
If controversies do develop in coming years, they are likely to appear first in the committee assigned to make the impossible decisions about what and where art will go inside the building. Tourtellotte's original design called for white walls with almost nothing on them, better to reflect the natural light coming through the skylights and to make the marble more prominent. The building was designed to be a working capitol. The current renovation, restoration and expansion are carrying that idea into the new century. So, the committee must recognize gifts for display without allowing the building to become a museum or the state's attic.
There have been few controversies like those that plagued the original builders, mostly because citizens have basically understood that a 100-year-old building needs some touch-up work, that the population of the state and the increasing number of legislative bills each year require more people to handle state business, and that the commission early on held meetings around the state to tell people what was happening.
The only taxpayers with room to complain are those who use tobacco products. A tax on these products has paid for the renovation and expansion of the Capitol. The best full view of the Capitol today is from the old Union Pacific Train Station.
Anyone who has ever remodeled an old house knows about surprises. The Capitol reconstruction and renovation is no different. There have been two major surprises in the process that we've discovered so far.
One was the paint used on the walls. Tourtellotte wanted the walls white, very white. They used calcimine paint. It coated nearly every paintable surface. It contained water, zinc oxide and glue and looked like whitewash when it dried. It was cheap and easy to use, so it remained popular until the end of World War II.
But when the painting contractor looked at the walls in the Capitol, he said there was no modern paint that would stick to calcimine. He couldn't guarantee his new paint would stay where he put it. There was only one thing to do: remove the old paint. It took 33 days that nobody could have foreseen. As of the end of May 2009, the reconstruction crews had made up 18 of those lost days.
The other surprise was an earthquake in Alaska. The quake had occurred several years earlier, but it buried a marble quarry under many feet of water - the quarry from which Tourtellotte had specified the red marble he used sparingly for trim in the Capitol. After some delaying searches, a red that was pretty close to the original was finally discovered in a Vermont quarry.
Once upon a time there were ashtrays in the Capitol.
Sounds odd today, since a smoldering cigarette butt anywhere in the building would cause five people to throw their bodies across a smoky tendril rising from a bit of shredded tobacco.
But when the Capitol was closed down for the New Year's holiday in 1992, there was no one to douse a spark left alive on a cigarette. The fire had time to build in the empty Attorney General's offices, and although the entire building had been designed to keep fire at bay, there were carpets, drapes, paper out- and in-baskets, wood desks.
After a security guard noticed the fire late in the afternoon on January 1, he pulled the manual fire alarm (smoke detectors apparently had not worked), and 50 firefighters were called in to douse the flames. The fire was out in about 45 minutes.
Fire, smoke and water damage cost nearly $3.2 million to repair, and the cost could have been greater had the heat from the fire busted the glass walls opening onto the rotunda. It did break windows in the offices, giving the fire the outdoor oxygen it needed to do greater damage. There was smoke and water damage to the second floor offices, some damage, too, for the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) meeting room (old Supreme Court) upstairs, where the coming year's budget projections were stored.
Part of the repair costs went into a sprinkler system for the Attorney General's Office. Once installed, the system got people thinking about the rest of the building. There weren't sprinkler systems in any other part of the building. The snowball of reconstruction, renovation and expansion of the Capitol started rolling downhill.
Seventeen years later, the work was done, and on November 12, 2009, a certificate of completion was handed to the Chairman of the Capitol Commission Andy Erstad. The things done list was a long one, but near the top of the list was a new sprinkler system for the building, both old and new sections. The only areas in the new Capitol without sprinklers are the rotunda, the senate and house chambers, and the JFAC meeting room. In these areas it was impossible to install piping for sprinklers and keep the historic integrity of the rooms.
But the threat of a major fire played a huge role in the original design of the building in those first years of the 20th Century. John E. Tourtellotte and Charles F. Hummel had designed 190 buildings before the partnership won the Capitol contract. They were working at drafting tables in the old brick Eastman Building on 27 more buildings, including the Capitol, in 1905. Many of these buildings would use materials that weren't fire-friendly.
They didn't need a reminder of destructive fire, but they got one just three years into the construction of the new Capitol, when thick smoke began rolling out of the next-door Central School building. The cause of the fire was unclear, but probably involved faulty wiring in the attic of the 4-story building, being used at the time for temporary state offices and deaf and blind students waiting for a permanent school to be finished. No one was injured that early December morning, but the fire confirmed that sandstone, marble, brick, along with steam heat was the way to go on the Capitol.
The decisions proved correct, for it was 80 years before a reportable fire occurred in the structure. A major reason for that good record was geothermal heat, Idaho's Capitol being the only one in the nation that uses hot water for heat. And the heating system was among the first systems Jacobson Hunt tracked when it took over the Capitol project. Fresh from a major renovation of the Utah Capitol, the heating system in Idaho was a new experience for the company.
They decided to replace the entire system - mechanical, electrical and plumbing. Making that happen, with both wet (hot water) and dry (ventilation), was relatively easy in the tunnels connecting Capitol buildings. But pushing that system through spaces between steel, brick and sandstone... Well, it paid to be skinny.
And none of the work of replacing pipes designed nearly 100 years ago and replaced with just-designed insulated pipes is visible, hidden now behind those mahogany boxes under the large windows or behind those frosted windows that are lit from behind to keep the theme of natural light, so much a part of the original design. Among the maze of pipes behind these windows are completely new plumbing and water pipes, only visible now at a spigot in a bathroom or at a drinking fountain in a hallway.
Another major challenge was the nearly century-old electrical wiring. It had not worked perfectly from the beginning. At the Capitol's grand opening when the outside of the building resembled a Christmas tree as darkness fell, the wiring failed and most of the lights went out. There was a major blackout in the building in 1976, and none of the wiring met modern codes as the 30-month renovation began.
Ninety-three miles of electrical wiring had to be replaced inside the building, and seven miles of feeder line to bring power into the building is new and hidden underground. Stretched end to end, the wire would reach from Boise to Lewiston. Some of it could be threaded through the space between marble and brick and behind molding, plaster and under flooring. Nearly half the wiring had to be threaded through conduit, and some of that required drilling holes in brick walls. There are 43 miles of conduit. All of it - with no wires crossed - made its way to 2,945 light fixtures, 1,205 outlets, 243 light switches.
Wiring, both for electricity and communications, had accumulated over the century, but little of that was removed when new wiring had been added. Every time contractors removed acoustical tile from a ceiling or pried up flooring, they found huge bundles of old, dead wire. Tons of it was recycled before new wiring could be installed, all the work done with lighting coming off generators. All the phone and data lines have been replaced, and wireless Internet is possible throughout portions of the building. It is an indication that communications between government and citizens has moved out of the rotunda and into office computers and cellphones.
But when the new Capitol opens on January 9, not all of the work will be behind walls.
If people look down, they will notice 12,520 yards of new flooring. There will be 43,164 square feet of new marble, mostly in the underground wings. This marble matches very closely the nine different marbles used in the original building. That took quite a bit of searching, according to Project Manager John Emery.
Going back to the original quarry 100 years later, he says, you find the stone today is a mile farther into the quarry than it was when the original marble was bought. That means a slightly richer color and small changes in the graining. There was a special problem with the salmon-colored marble Tourtellotte used for trim. The quarry in Alaska where the original architect ordered the marble is now under over 300 feet of water, the result of an earthquake. But that quarry had put aside some blocks of the red marble, and it was enough to replace trim in the old building. The trim marble in the wings is of a slightly deeper red, but fits because it's never abutted with the original. Only an expert stonemason will notice the difference.
What's certainly visible to any visitor is the mahogany in the building. There are 22,500 linear feet of it in the old building, and 65,933 board feet of it in the new wings.
Tourtellotte had used the dark wood both to direct the eye to office entrances and to contrast with the white walls and light-colored marbles he had used to reflect natural light from the skylights. Much of the mahogany in the original building simply needed to be scraped, sanded and refinished, except for the windows. Installing heavier double-paned glass in these windows would have taken too much time (money), so the windows, the rope and pulley system in each, and the casings were simply bought new as a package. And with modern lighting, along with skylights in the new wings and modern fire prevention, more marble paneling could be used there.
In his original paint specs, Tourtellotte used the word white over and over. Even the metal (fire-resistant) storage cabinets in the basement should be painted with white enamel. He was specific, too, about anything that covered the white spaces. Keep wall-hangings to a minimum, and none at all was best.
But since there was a minimum of color choices available in 1905, the new century painters figured they could get away with two colors - white, of course, but a color called millet (coffee with too much cream), would give the white a lot more punch. It took 3,680 gallons of both colors to get the effect they were after, best illustrated in the ocului in the dome of the rotunda. Here the cream gives the white depth and brings out the intricate patterns in the ceiling.
In this work, and much more, the state has spent $120 million, all of it coming from a tax on tobacco products. That fact should give the 1992 New Year's smokers and the person who dumped an ashtray into what was thought to be a fireproof trashcan room to stop apologizing for an accidental fire.
Had the controversy swirling around Idaho’s Capitol in 1909 been presented on a Greek stage a few centuries earlier, the tragedy would have drawn a standing-room-only crowd.
Fellow minority Democrats in the legislature thought they had the “erratic” Ravenel Macbeth, D-Custer County, under control. He had been relegated to the back bench, where his favorite word - malfeasance - wouldn’t disturb the debates so often.
It didn’t work.
Spending of public money, always holding a high spot on any political top-40, was Macbeth’s pick in late January, when he added “extravagance” to spending on the State Capitol under construction.
He submitted a resolution asking that three senators be appointed to investigate and report to the full Senate. He said the 1905 building fund asked for $350,000 to build the Capitol, that $300,000 had already been spent, that Gov. James H. Brady was asking for $400,000 more, plus $100,000 for the dome, and $1 million to build the wings. The difference between money on hand from the sale of state land and a bond issue, he continued, left the state’s taxpayers, “now overburdened with taxation,” with a $1.5 million bill.
The motion got tabled, but after the session, Macbeth was cornered by Idaho Daily Statesman reporters, who quoted him saying he would “not state at this time what the charges will be, except that wrong-doing will not be among them, although I will bring out some sensational matters.”
The quote guaranteed continued coverage, and ears perked on both sides of the aisle, plus the story garnered public attention. In the next-day reconsideration of the vote to table, Republicans managed to put the question into the lap of the State Affairs Committee, a move Macbeth voted for.
A majority of the senators had voted for the probe, apparently thinking the issue did require looking into, if nothing else to clear the air on Capitol expenditures. But the committee asked Macbeth to provide it with evidence to back up his claims of extravagance on the part of the Capitol Commission.
It was a put up or shut up kind of question, and Macbeth responded by asking for more time to gather evidence, since the commission was late with its financial report, and he stoked the political fire by alleging the State Land Board had leased too cheaply mining land to a Republican supporter (Gaylord W. Thompson of Lewiston) as pay-back for that support. He asked for more time to work on the case. He got five days.
The Idaho Daily Statesman reported it this way:
From the spectators’ viewpoint the session was by far the most interesting of any the senate of the Tenth session has held. When Macbeth touched a match to the pyrotechnics, there were but few spectators in the gallery and in the seats back of the railing, but as the strong sulphuric odor soared through the hall on the second floor, others came in and when the noise that had taken the place of the usual tranquility of the senate chamber died away, the gallery was filled and all back seats occupied.
The next day (Friday, Jan. 30, 1909) Macbeth was still asking for more time while he was adding to the charges. Under the Capitol Commission heading, he added that the taxpayers had lost thousands of dollars from “high salaried expert steel workers loafing around Boise for six months drawing pay when not working, because the commission had not closed its steel contract.” He said he had been told the steelwork in the Capitol “was eight inches out of plumb.” He quoted from the Architectural Review an article he said called the new Capitol “an architectural joke,” and he said the joke was on Idaho taxpayers.
Macbeth also suggested that representatives of the Capitol Commission had taken bribes in awarding construction contracts. He reportedly told the full senate that “the man who put in the lowest bid was refused the contract. When they asked him to ‘put up,’ he said ‘No, I cannot make any money by doing that.’” He also quoted a Moscow newspaper editorial, which said there was an unnamed contractor who said he had been asked for money to bring a contract his way. The paper said it would supply information to the investigation, “so that the truth could be ascertained.”
By now, the Custer County senator was saying he could not get a fair hearing before the State Affairs Committee, because the chairman was a Republican. (In the 10th Session, there were 13 Republicans and 10 Democrats.) Macbeth was a member of the committee on the Democrat side.
There was a lull in the fireworks as the chairman of the Capitol Commission, ex-Governor Frank R. Gooding, wrote to the senate that he would welcome an investigation into both the use of Capitol building funds and the land deals to finance the construction. The Capitol’s construction manager, Herbert Quigley, submitted a report of the outlay of money during 1907-08, which totaled $185,144.
The report said all invoices were in the State Treasurer’s office for anyone to see, and said it was not unusual in a building like the Capitol for on-the-ground expenses to stretch beyond early cost projections. And the Idaho House finished a report on its look into the extravagant spending charge. That report exonerated the commission, but the House said it would put its finding “into cold storage” and wait for the senate committee’s report, releasing both together.
Macbeth, meanwhile, submitted his report to the senate, which included the same numbers he had used in his first resolution. He said the commission’s report had not touched on projected costs of the finished Capitol, so he had no more information than he had already. He called contractors who had submitted bids or expressed an interest in submitting one as witnesses - S.W. Underwood, D.F. Murphy, Joseph Sullivan, Thomas Owens, John Monarch, James Thomas, A.S. Whiteway, and Gov. James H. Brady.
By the middle of February, the State Affairs Committee began three days of hearings that quickly disintegrated into an emotional knock down-drag out fight. Things got hot in a hurry after the first day of hearings in which local contractors expressed personal opinions about things like whether or not steam power was cheaper than electrical, how the commission had saved money on bargain prices for the Table Rock Quarry and land on which the Capitol sat. Architect John E. Toutellotte said the Capitol dome had been cut to one-eighth of its size in his original drawings to save money. And some of Macbeth’s witnesses showed up with attorneys and said nothing, citing the possibility their testimony could be self-incriminating.
The press coverage summarized these sessions in a headline:
NOTHING WRONG WITH CAPITOL COMMISSION
Members and Others Say it Did Work Well and Economically as Could Be
The fireworks erupted during Tourtellotte’s response to the Architectural Review article that quoted a Boston architect as saying the Capitol design was poor design, “an architectural joke.” Tourtellotte was a member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest congregation in Boise at the time, where he served on the church’s Board of Trustees. So it was a surprise when he reportedly pounded the table and his face turned from red to white as he yelled what newspapers reported:
The man who criticized the building is a rattle-brained... Here, Tourtellotte uttered a coarse name.
When the packed public gallery stopped laughing, Toutellotte apologized for this use of the unpublished word(s), and he said he had received an apology from the magazine for publishing the critical article. But, he blasted Macbeth as well:
You have brought charges against the commission only to furnish kindling for yourself and your party two years hence. You have accepted as truth statements you have heard on the curbs. You have taken the word of irresponsible parties. Not one of the contractors you had testify here this afternoon is responsible, and I know them all.
The committee chairman demanded that Tourtellotte apologize, which he did:
I have gone too far, and I beg the pardon of the gentlemen. But I was mad, and I could not help saying what I thought.
After the hearings, Quigley wrote to his cousin in Pennsylvania:
The legislature is in session here now and the Democratic minority members have been making a great cry of fraud, scandal, mismanagement, bribery, etc. against the Capitol Building Commission and against me. This has made a great lot of work for me in preparing special reports, with which to defend our side. I have worked some nights nearly all night and often half the night. I am glad to say that the investigation almost completely exonerates us all, even the members making the charges against us are said to be disgusted with the way they were gulled into making charges.
Personally, I stand better today before the Commission and the people generally than I did before, in as much as I have now been tried by fire, as it were, and found OK.
The committee reportedly found “irregularities but nothing criminal” in the land board’s handling of state land sales. One irregularity not related to the Capitol project involved the failure to deposit land sale funds for schools in interest-bearing accounts. The land board made changes in its procedures.
Macbeth was undeterred by the committee’s report, and he insisted that the full senate adopt a minority report. His minority report said, in essence, that the commission had been extravagant in its spending and had mismanaged the project. It was a repeat of his earlier charges. Insisting that he was being gagged, he did manage to have his report read to the full senate. This after the Republican speaker was quoted as saying: “In order to show the flimsiness and silliness of the Custer senator and his motion, I will permit it to be read.”
Macbeth said he wished to state, “that the chair has none of the instincts of a gentleman. He may bulldoze the majority but he cannot bulldoze the minority.”
The final bill for the central portion, opened three years after the hearing (1912), came in at $1,145,925.05. The final bill was within the range Quigley had placed at between $1 million and $1.5 million “for a first class Capitol building” when he testified at the 1909 hearings.
It looked and sounded like the squirrel was cussing.
The long-blade chainsaw slowly chewed through the trunk of the oak standing then near the North 8th Street boundary of the Idaho Capitol grounds.
Up in the branches not far from where heavy ropes had been tied, the squirrel scurried up and down the trunk. At the other end of the ropes men pulled in the direction of the V-cut that would fell the tree eastward and away from the street.
Seconds before the tree cracked and leaned into the ropes, the squirrel scampered low on the huge trunk, then, trusting fate, leapt the last 30 feet to the ground and scampered to the trees still standing on the other side of East Jefferson. There, it did the squirrel equivalent of angry muttering.
The human version of squirrelese had been going on since reports that several ancient trees would have to go, since the roofs of the new underground wings would be too close to the surface to allow root systems of any large plant. Several of the younger commemorative trees, complete with plaques, were moved and were scheduled to return to the grounds when the new construction was finished.
With background music from cell phone ring-tones and the whine of chainsaws, people began to say something ought to be done to somehow give the old trees a second life, especially the three presidential trees — a Red Oak (called Water Oak in the West) set to commemorate a visit to the state by Benjamin Harrison in May 1891, a Rock Sugar Maple from Teddy Roosevelt in 1903, and an Ohio Buckeye from Robert Taft in October 1911.
This orchestra found a conductor in Boise’s District 15 Republican Representative Max C. Black, a well-known woodcarver among Idahoans who whittle and carve. He set out to save any piece of wood greater than three inches in diameter. It wasn’t easy, had never been done before, and the usual response to the idea was a puzzled “Huh?...”
In an interview with IdahoPTV’s Capitol of Light Project, Black outlined some of the tense moments:
- As the trees were falling, he found a contractor different from the one he had been working with, one who didn’t know what Black was talking about.
- There was no place set up to store the logs and large limbs while they seasoned, so he called a friend who agreed the only thing to do was to haul them to the friend’s place in Eagle.
- His friend was in Coeur d’Alene and his wife was a little befuddled when logs and large limbs were being unloaded in her back yard.
- They found a portable sawmill, but it was in Wyoming, so they had to wait until that was delivered.
- For the next three weeks, Black, along with Jerry Deckert of Eagle, and Robert Reebie of Sand Hollow, sawed lumber in Deckert’s yard. Amazingly, 20 volunteers showed up to help.
- Where to store it? They found kilns in Meridian, Emmett and another one south of Boise, but most of the lumber was simply stacked in Deckert’s yard to season.
- After drying the lumber for a year and a half, Black had to deliver it, trailer load by trailer load, to the carvers all over the state.
- Each carver got enough lumber to make something for public display and to make something of an heirloom nature for himself or herself.
Forest of Names
There have been 11 commemorative trees planted on the Capitol grounds:
The President Benjamin Harrison Tree
The President Teddy Roosevelt Tree
The President Howard Taft Tree
The Idaho Federated Women's Clubs Tree
The Governor Arnold Williams Tree
The Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers Tree
The Governor C. Ben Ross Tree
The General Federation of Women's Clubs Bicentennial Tree
The Tree of Guernica (Basque)
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tree
The Governor Dirk Kempthorne 9/11 Commemorative Tree
There are 10 major memorials:
The Oregon Trail Monument
The Sea Coast Cannon (Civil War)
The Governor Frank Steunenberg Statue
The Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic Monument
The Liberty Bell Replica
The Treasurer Ruth G. Moon Rose Garden
The State of Idaho Flowerbed
The President Abraham Lincoln Statue
The Lewis and Clark Encounter with Nez Perce Statue
The Winged Victory Statue, a gift from France to Idaho Veterans of World War II
And a variety of personal veterans' plaques and Idaho county banners
From an inventory by Carole Schroeder
“It turned out to be a much bigger job than we thought,” he said, “but the whole thing started to get legs and the woodworking groups really rallied around me and started to promote this type of thing.”
The results were creative. There were wooden keys to the state, wood writing pens, bowls of every size and shape, vases, clocks, writing desks, Windsor chairs, benches for the Capitol hallways, muzzleloader gunstocks, speaker’s podiums, bookcases, busts of the presidents with commemorative trees, plaques in the shape of the state, presidential railroad cars, even fiddles.
Frank Daniels of Boise, made the fiddle from the Harrison tree, and at the Capitol Rededication ceremonies, Scott Sumner of Meridian pulled “Ashokan Farewell” from the Red Oak and Engelmann spruce fiddle. No one who heard the music remembered fussing squirrels, chainsaws whining, sanders, the pings of saw blades breaking as they struck old nails in the logs.
“I wasn’t sure how it was going to sound,” Daniels said as he worked on a new fiddle in his garage. “Oak isn’t a traditional wood for fiddle makers, and I wasn’t sure how the wood would hold up, since I have to take a ¾–inch thick piece of wood and shave it down to three millimeters thick.”
But when the oak back and sides were paired with the spruce from McCall, “the tone was pure and the sound projected real well,” he said.
Daniels has been making fiddles since he retired from the Bureau of Land Management in 1987, and the Capitol fiddle was his 170th one of the 174 he has made. He started making the instruments in 1987, but growing up, he had watched his father, Sam W. Daniels, make fiddles in an upstairs room at the home farm in Jerome.
“I donated the Capitol fiddle to the State Historical Society,” he said, “but I have three more pieces of the Red Oak that I cut from the Harrison Tree stump, so I’ll make two more to sell and one to keep for myself.
“Before I donated the fiddle, I took it to the Violin Makers Association of Arizona International, and it took 7th place in the Overall Category, based on its tone, workmanship and varnish scores,” he said.
However, no woodcarver in the state topped Black’s contribution. In addition to turning out a replica of the Oregon Short Line train based on the trains that carried the presidents to Idaho, he turned out 254 Idaho-shaped plaques from the Red Oak that had wooden keys attached. One plaque went to each city and county in Idaho and to each of the four Native American tribes. He carved one large ceremonial key from the oak, plus there were 200 small keys for Capitol volunteers from an Ash tree.
“I’ve been doing this since I took a woodworking class in the 7th grade,” he said. “The first shop of my own was a closet in an apartment.
“Since then, that shop has grown to fill a garage and three smaller shops I’ve built at my home.”
Black used wood from five Capitol trees for his period train — Red Oak, Ohio Buckeye, Rock Sugar Maple, Ash and American Elm. Even the black smokestack on Engine No. 151 is wood stained by deteriorating nails that someone drove into the trees years ago.
All of the more than 50 Idaho woodcarvers’ work will rotate in displays in Statuary Hall at the Capitol. At the entrance to the hall is the wood sculpture of President George Washington astride a horse. This sculpture was done from a single Idaho Yellow Pine log by Charles L. Ostner in 1869. The displays are organized and presented by the Idaho State Historical Society. A sampler of the work is presented here in the Photo Gallery.
Keep your mouth shut.
It’s advice Herbert Edward Quigley got from a friend when he took the job of construction supervisor for Idaho’s Capitol Building in 1905.
The friend, working then as a construction supervisor on a government building in California, apparently was a trusted one. Both had worked for the Department of the Treasury, the federal agency then in charge of building projects nationwide. Quigley was construction supervisor on the Boise Federal Building (Borah Post Office) just southwest of the Territorial Capitol and later the State Capitol. He also oversaw construction of Boise’s Federal Courthouse. Before coming to Boise, he had been a Treasury inspector on the U.S. Mint Building in Denver.
Answer all inquiries with facts, his friend told him. “Let the architects express opinions.”
Quigley took the advice to heart, for a records search turned up not a single direct quote from him in a newspaper story. When he is quoted, it is from one of his factual reports to a variety of legislative committees, public hearings or in capitol commission meetings. Only one photograph of very poor quality with his obituary has been found. That search was nationwide.
He had, however, expressed an opinion about the proposed Capitol when he responded to Capitol Commissioner Judge James H. Beatty’s letter asking him to oversee construction. He preferred granite to sandstone, he said. Since Table Rock quarry’s sandstone was close by, the commissioners and the architects had a different opinion, evidenced by the sandstone Capitol.
It was the last opinion widely-expressed in his writing about the work, other than to tell Beatty that, although he wanted the job, the Treasury Department had been a good employer, and he wanted to give the agency a chance to match the salary offered — $2,600 a year. Treasury responded that Congress had not been kind with appropriations and said that he should formally resign with no ill will on either side.
Although he said writing was “hard work for me and something I neglect,” he did a lot of it. At the Idaho History Center in Boise, where his papers are kept, there are nearly four inches of his bound letters, all of them on onionskin paper and in ink. He often expresses concern about his business reputation and gives long and detailed explanations for his actions and conclusions. A theme running through all his letters is a desire to maintain the reader’s trust and to “make things right.”
The best example is Quigley’s letter exchange with W.H. Ridenbaugh, a contractor who lost money when inspectors rejected a brick wall in the Boise Federal Building. The wall that Quigley said he ordered built had to be torn out and the brick re-laid in the proper pattern. He told Ridenbaugh he was sending $400 from his own pocket, because “right is right, whether I am pinched or the other guy.”
Ridenbaugh said the payment wasn’t necessary, but Quigley wrote back to say he would leave the job on a post office in Findlay, Ohio, and arrive in Boise early in June (1905) to supervise construction of the Capitol. He said they would take up the debate in person, and that he expected to win it. There is no record that he did give the money to Ridenbaugh, but it is a good bet that he did, for Quigley was stubborn as a bulldog.
The stubbornness is clearest in his exchange with a health insurance company. The agent required a deposit to insure Quigley’s strong interest in a policy, and Quigley sent $50.87. However, he was turned down for insurance because of a condition called “running ears” and his long battle with erysipelas, a kind of painful, disfiguring and recurring strep infection of the skin of his face and hands. Quigley would write many letters demanding a refund. Again, it is not clear whether or not he ever got his money back, but the angry Quigley letters stretched over four years, with Quigley saying often he was “tired of this nonsense.”
Then there was the battle with the Boise phone company. The bills he received spelled his name Herbert O. Quingley. In a 2-page typed letter, he said he knew he was two bills in arrears, but that he would not pay another bill until they got his name correct, both on the bills and in the phone book. A man has a right to his own name, he wrote, and “if you donâ€™t get this corrected, you can send your man here to pick up your phone.” He adds that when the name is corrected, he does not intend to pay both the Quingley bills nor the back bills for Quigley!
Few people working on the new Capitol during the eight years he supervised construction (1905-1913) ever saw this side of Quigley. His answers to questions were meticulously researched and stated in high stacks of facts. When a question came up on the bricks used in the building, and millions were used, he wrote a short book on the pros and cons of lime bricks.
Quigley furnished a detailed report to the architects on where state officials would be placed in the original Capitol. The report is typical Quigley – precise square footage for each arm of state government at the time.
“There is a basement under the entire building, 11 feet high in the clear,” he wrote. In every case, he continued, the vaults that appear on the grade and first stories also appear in the basement and provide ample room for storing state archives.
He allocated space in this way:
Grade floor: Adjutant General with one large room and one small room with a vault, 866 square feet; Immigration Commissioner with one large and one small room containing a vault, 640 square feet; Land Department with five rooms, various sizes, containing a vault, 1,764 square feet; State Engineer with three rooms, various sizes, containing two vaults, 1,252 square feet; Traveling Library with two rooms and one vault, 695 square feet; State Library with one room, 913 square feet; Railroad Commission with three rooms, one vault and a private toilet, 965 square feet; Bank Examiner with one room and a vault, 695 square feet; Insurance Commissioner with two rooms and a vault, 761 square feet; Board of Control, Charitable and Penal Institutions with four rooms, two coat rooms, a private toilet and a vault, 1,028 square feet; and Agricultural Exhibits and Historical Society with five large rooms containing four vaults, 6,106 square feet.
First Floor: State Library with one large room and one smaller, a private office for the librarian and a private toilet, 3,696 square feet; Attorney General with three rooms containing two vaults, 1,336 square feet; Governor with five rooms containing (with private corridor) two vaults and a private toilet, 2,113 square feet; Secretary of State with five rooms containing two vaults and a private toilet, 2,028 square feet; Treasurer with three rooms with two vaults, 1,241 square feet; Auditor with three rooms containing two vaults, 1,277 square feet; Superintendent of Public Instruction with one large room (could be subdivided) and one vault, 881 square feet; Board Meeting Rooms with three rooms, one vault and a private toilet, 1,002 square feet; and the Supreme Court with a semi-circular room, five rooms for judges, two rooms for the court clerk, a consultation room, two vaults and a private toilet, 3,392 square feet.
Second Floor: Senate with a small alcove behind the President’s desk, 2,725 square feet; House with a small alcove behind the Speaker’s desk, 2,920 square feet.
Quigley lists 40 rooms on this floor that “may be variously used, as for President, Speaker, chief clerks, or for unassigned purposes at present, but to be used later for different boards, commissioners, inspectors, etc.”, 10,328 square feet.
Third Floor: Senate gallery for the public, 7,234 square feet; House gallery for the public, 7,234 square feet; and four committee rooms, 1,136 square feet; State Chemist, Dairy and Pure Food Commission with three rooms, 945 square feet; Board of Health with one room, 391 square feet; Boiler Inspector with one room, 289 square feet; Game and Fish Warden with one room, 260 square feet; Labor Commissioner with one room, 475 square feet; Trustees Soldiers’ Home with one room, 368 square feet; Custodian with one room, 210 square feet; and Janitor with one room, 256 square feet.
For each floor, Quigley lists the space taken up by the rotunda, vestibules, public corridors, “light courts,” elevator shafts, toilet rooms, stairs, closets… He came up with a total of 30,292 square feet for the grade story; 31,028 square feet for the first story; 31,746 square feet for the second floor; and 33,490 square feet for the third floor.
He kept an alphabetized pocket book listing the prices of the day on nearly every item any contractor would be using. In the neatly typed pages is everything from blasting powder ($2.50 per keg) to a wire desk basket (32 cents). An oak roll-top desk was $27.50, derrick skips went for $50 (second hand), a quart of ink ($1), a keg of nails ($4), pump valves ($80), rivets (15 cents each), stone wagon ($180 each, $40 used), and steel wheelbarrows ($6.61). There are 70 items listed under the heading of pipes, including couplings, tees, bushings, valves, elbows and more. Pencils should cost no more than 75 cents to $1.08 per dozen. Few contractors were able to add a few pennies here and there to boost their bottom line.
It was the same with flutes. Quigley was a flute player with the Boise Symphony Orchestra, and he sent specs to Montgomery Ward for what he wanted in a flute. He asked them to send two for his inspection and for the option of returning them if they did not meet his specs. He bought the $115 flute and sent the $200 flute back. As an officer with the symphony, he orders music for a special concert, carefully selecting pieces that fit: Mendelssohn’s “I Waited for the Lord,” Handel’s “Largo”, plus modern pieces like “Festival March,” “Last Chord,” and “The Palms.”
Even though Quigley maintained this kind of hawk eye on expenditures, the final cost of the Capitol was nearly double the original appropriation of $780,000. It caused no end of controversy, with Quigley “burning the midnight oil,” he wrote to family members in Wisconsin, as he tried to emphasize value over cheap and shoddy. His opponents, mostly politicians and sour grapes contractors were working just as hard to emphasize saving taxpayers’ money without ever saying cheap and shoddy. In the emotional debates, Quigley kept his friend’s advice. He let Architect John E. Tourtellotte express opinions, and Tourtellotte was a man with no shortage of those. Quigley mentions Tourtellotte by name only once in his voluminous correspondence, saying the architect was not paid well enough ($10,000) for the work he was doing. In a city of 25,000 people, it is likely Quigley knew both Tourtellotte and his partner Charles Hummel, and that there was mutual respect for their work.
Lost in the debates and arguments over funds, designs and “delays” was Quigley’s forethought and planning that had not appeared on any ledger. One of the best examples were the derricks used to lift the heavy stone and steel to the top of the building, which near the end of construction was around 200 feet.
With no railroad depot in Boise on the main tracks and with train schedules and good maintenance of tracks in the West still a goal, Quigley knew there would be delays in shipments of steel. He said the derricks should be bought, used during the construction, then sold to recover most if not all their cost. He said there would be delays in the arrival of steel and the state would be out too much money by paying rent on the derricks when there was no steel to lift. Also, he said, there would be savings in not paying derrick operators when there was nothing to lift or workers in the dome with rivets but no steel beams.
He suggested the state buy Table Rock Quarry, and they did at a price one contractor said later he would have bought for three times more. It could be sold when the Capitol was finished to recoup the cost. Quigley abandoned his preference for granite and wrote a dozen letters to stone experts nationwide on the best way to treat sandstone. He thought using prison labor to build and maintain a road from the quarry to the Capitol was a good idea. The road needed constant maintenance because of the tons of stone hauled over it. Labor costs would have been tremendous under any other arrangement.
But the appropriation-final cost gap was too much for the House of Representatives to ignore. Hearings were set up to appropriate more money to fill the gap, and the loudest complainers were the major stone contractors for the building, Daniel F. Murphy and Charles D. Storey. It was Storey who had been Speaker of the House when the original bonds were issued for the Capitol, and press reports speculated that he now (1911) hoped to be appointed to the construction supervisor’s job.
The final decision on whether or not Quigley stayed or went was in closed session, so it is difficult to be exact on what happened. He does receive an anonymous note, signed only as “a friend.” The note urges him to resign before he is fired. The note, “written in haste,” said the House was “going to recommend the appropriation of $750,000, but in the meantime, they called in the Secretary of State and Treasurer, and they had those men say and agree to discharge you on the strength of the appropriation. They also interviewed the Governor with the same results.”
Did it come from a friend or from an enemy? It must have been just as hard for Quigley to decide.
Quigley writes on July 5, 1913, to a cousin in Wisconsin, who had made investments in Quigley’s sideline mortgage broker business, that he was “through now at the Capitol after 8 years of work and am looking for something to do.” He could have resigned to avoid damage to his real estate work that a firing on public record would have caused, something the anonymous letter had warned him about, but there is no resignation letter among his papers at the History Center. Had he resigned, his meticulous record keeping would have guaranteed its inclusion. Newspaper accounts of final work on the Capitol list a Mr. Dean as “supervisor of construction for the contractors.”
Quigley’s record after his Capitol work is sketchy. He had bought an 80-acre farm near Jerome, and his management of the land showed his usual attention to details. He said a 36-inch fence was too low to protect his 40 acres of red clover and 40 acres of oats. It wasn’t high enough to stop jackrabbits that thought of his crops as dessert. He followed faithfully Homestead Act rules that had helped him buy the land. Expenses on the farm rarely dropped below income from it, and he later sold the farm.
He continued his mortgage broker and real estate work, becoming an agent for the Boise Title and Trust Company. As an agent he got letters of introduction and recommendation from former governors Frank R. Gooding and James H. Hawley and traveled to a dozen eastern states looking for investors. He wrote to a friend that easterners “weren’t very interested in investing in the West.” When his company filed for bankruptcy in 1915, he was professionally devastated. In another letter he writes that he has had to “turn to carpentry and furnace work.” He mentions in letters that he owned some real estate in Boise and a lot on Payette Lake, but also mentions his difficulties in meeting property tax requirements and interest payments on his loans.
When he asks both ex-governors for another letter of recommendation in 1918 to the West Coast shipyards then gearing up for World War I, he tells Hawley he will take any kind of work, “even a construction helper.” It was an age in which there was no safety net in the form of unemployment checks.
The next record found is his rather short obituary, with a very dark and grainy photograph, in The Boise Statesman:
“Herbert Edward Quigley, 88, of 1516 Hays Street, a long-time resident of Boise and pioneer architect of the city, died early Saturday in a Boise nursing home.
“Mr. Quigley was born Nov 1, 1866 in Lake Geneva, Wis., and had been a resident of Boise since the late 1890's. A graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., with a degree in architecture, Mr. Quigley was superintendent of construction of the Boise post office and of the main portion of the state Capitol, from 1905 until 1912.
“He was a member of St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
“Survivors include one daughter, Mrs. Marion Lillian Colegrove, Boise, and several nieces and nephews in the East.”
(His wife and high school sweetheart, Nellie Funk Quigley, also of Lake Geneva, preceded him in death.)
Boise was not Idaho’s first capital city. In March 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the law that created Idaho Territory, he left the task of choosing a temporary capital to William Wallace, a personal friend he appointed to serve as first Territorial Governor. Wallace chose Lewiston, then a booming supply point for the mines of north Idaho. The new legislature would select the capital’s permanent location. By 1864, gold discoveries in the Boise Basin had shifted the population south, and following a heated debate, the second Territorial Legislature chose Boise as the permanent capital. For the next twenty years, government proceedings took place at various locations throughout the city.
In 1885, the thirteenth Territorial Legislature approved construction of a centralized government building. Erected between Jefferson and State and Sixth and Seventh streets, the building was designed by noted architect Elijah E. Myers, a prolific designer of American capitol buildings.
Idaho’s Second Capitol Building
By 1905, the Capitol building’s lack of amenities and limited space prompted the state legislature to fund construction of a new Capitol. Construction began in 1905 and was completed in two phases. Phase one, which included construction of the central section and dome, was completed in 1912. The new Capitol and its surrounding grounds occupied two blocks and were originally located between two early Boise landmarks – the Territorial Capitol and Central School. Both buildings were demolished during phase two (1919 â€“ 1921) to make way for the addition of the east and west wings.
Remodeling projects during the 1950s and 1970s accommodated a growing state government, but crowding, failing mechanical systems, and decades of hard use eventually left their mark on the aging building. Fortunately, the state of Idaho recognized the need to save the historic Capitol by restoring it and maintaining the building as a working seat of government.
Creating a Vision for the People – The Architects
For the 1905 Capitol building design, the Capitol Commission held an open competition and selected Tourtellotte & Company, a well-known Boise firm. John E. Tourtellotte, a Connecticut native, began his career in Massachusetts before heading west in 1889. Less than a year later he arrived in Boise and began working as a contract architect.
Tourtellotte’s partner, Charles Hummel, was originally from Germany, where he received his architectural training. He worked in Switzerland before immigrating to the United States in 1885, eventually arriving in Idaho in 1895, and becoming Tourtellotte’s partner in 1903. The successful partnership continued for many years, even after Tourtellotte relocated to Portland, Oregon. Following the deaths of both Tourtellotte and Hummel in 1939, the firm continued as Hummel Architects.
Tourtellotte was inspired to create a building that emphasized natural light and used it as a decorative element. He used light shafts, skylights, and reflective marble surfaces to capture natural sunlight and direct it to the interior space. For Tourtellotte, light was a metaphor for an enlightened and moral state government. The original design created an architecturally pleasing building that incorporated the materials and technologies of the day into a working Capitol.
Building and Architectural Details
As you walk through the Capitol, note the large, beautiful “marble” columns supporting the rotunda. They are not solid marble but have a finished surface composed of scagliola – a mixture of gypsum, glue, marble dust, and granite dyed to look like marble. Scagliola originated in Italy during the sixteenth century and grew in popularity because polished marble, though popular, was expensive and heavy.
In addition to scagliola, true marble is also used extensively throughout the building. White marble with green veining, called American Pavonazzo, can be seen on the columns of the central portion of the building. Brocadillo marble, a greenish-white marble with green veining, was used for the wainscoting and upper wall panels of the staircases. The floors throughout the building are comprised of four different marbles from four different quarries and locations. The gray patterned marble is from Alaska, the red stone from Georgia, the green stone from Vermont, and the black stone from Italy.
Classical architectural elements include Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic columns. Corinthian columns have decorative acanthus leaves at the top. Doric and Ionic columns are less ornate.
- Native sandstone from the nearby Table Rock quarry was used to face the outside walls.
- The eagle atop the dome stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, including its sandstone pedestal.
- Including the eagle, the building is 208 feet tall.
- Many of the original light fixtures remain – they have been converted from gas to electricity.
In the original design, the central rotunda area of the garden level was a dark and often damp basement. The building restoration has transformed the area into the central welcoming place for visitors, with an interpretive exhibit, gift shop, and visitor information desk.
Great Seal of the State of Idaho
Notice the Great Seal of the State of Idaho on the floor of the central rotunda. Adopted in 1891 by the state legislature, the original seal was designed by Emma Edwards Green and is the only state seal designed by a woman. The Latin motto Esto perpetua means “May it endure forever.” The miner represents the chief industry at the time the seal was created, while the woman holding scales represents justice, freedom, and equality.
From the central rotunda area, look east and west. You can see a full city block and take in the view of an impressive engineering achievement – the underground atrium wings. These wings were constructed to provide additional space for legislative committee hearing rooms, where the public can participate directly in the legislative process. The wings preserve the integrity of the building’s architecture and improve the functionality of the building. As you explore the new wings, look up. Glass skylights run the length of the central corridors and offer a view of the Capitol dome. These skylights – specially engineered and designed for this project – are consistent with the vision of the original architects and provide a seamless bond between the old and new. The skylights are made of fritted glass – a clear safety glass fired with a pattern of dots for the purpose of shading and lowering solar gain – making artificial light unnecessary in some corridors during the summer and some sunny winter days.
Senate hearing rooms and offices are located in the west wing, and House hearing rooms and offices are in the east wing. A large 240-seat auditorium, shared by the Senate and House, is also located in the west wing. As you walk to the west wing, notice the original basement vault doors. These vaults were once used for record storage. All of the original vault doors remain in the building.
The doors to the Visitor Welcome Room and to the lobbyists’ room are some of the original basement vault doors. The basement vaults were originally used to store paper records. There was never any money stored in them.
Several buildings within the Capitol Mall are connected by an underground tunnel. This tunnel allows state employees to move between the Capitol and a handful of other buildings without having to go outside. It connects the mail room, print shop, and facility services functions as well. The tunnel runs beneath State Street. The tunnel is not open to the public in order to best maintain security.
Step into the center of the rotunda and look up to the breathtaking interior of the dome. Above you, the rotunda rises to an opening at the top of the inner dome called the oculus, or eye of the dome. You can see thirteen large stars, which represent the thirteen original colonies, and forty-three smaller stars, representing Idaho’s admission as the forty-third state in the Union.
The dome is actually two domes: an inner dome constructed of wood and plaster and an outer dome constructed of steel and concrete and roofed with terracotta tiles.
In the center of the rotunda you are ringed by eight massive steel columns clad in scagliola. These sixty-foot-high columns support the dome and surround the gray, black, and red compass rose medallion on the floor.
Looking down at the floor, you see a design called a “compass rose” in the center of the rotunda. The compass rose design was originally created to indicate the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west – on nautical charts. Over time it became a popular design, or motif, and has been used by architects as a decorative element in many other buildings.
The Treasurer’s Office
On the east side of the first floor is the Treasurer’s office. Inside, an original vault contains a large manganese steel safe made in 1905 and still used today.
The Manganese Steel Safe Company was founded in the late 1890s as Hibbard, Rodman and Ely Company. At a plant in New Jersey, the company specialized in the manufacture of safes made of manganese steel, including a model called the “cannonball.” The Hibbard, Rodman and Ely Company was so successful with sales of manganese steel safes that it changed its name to reflect the company’s success. The round, double-locked, tightly sealed cannonball safe is still considered one of the most secure models.
The Legislative Services Office (LSO), the nonpartisan support staff for the Legislature, also occupies the first floor. The LSO conducts bill research; drafts legislation; and provides budget analysis, financial compliance audits, and technology support for the Idaho Legislature.
An interesting feature of this floor is the elevator located outside the Legislative Reference Library. This private elevator transported judges to the Idaho Supreme Court Chamber, originally located on the third floor.
The Governor’s suite, which includes a ceremonial office and working office for the Governor and offices for support staff, is located in the west wing. In the ceremonial office, note the governor’s desk, which has been used by Idaho governors since 1919. Official portraits of the current governor and first lady grace the walls of the office. In 1911, the Legislature commissioned artist Herbert Collins to paint portraits of Idaho’s territorial and state governors. The original twenty portraits, plus portraits of all governors who have served since 1911, are hung along the walls adjacent to the governor’s suite. As you tour the ceremonial office notice the Corinthian columns and the ornate plaster work that has been restored to its original grandeur.
The second floor also houses offices for the Attorney General on the north side of the building and the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State in the east wing. The official copy of the Great Seal of the State of Idaho is kept in the reception area of the Secretary of State’s office.
In 1957 the Legislature commissioned Caldwell artist Paul B. Evans to update the state seal. Evans colorized and “streamlined” the seal. He added a border, sharpened some of the details, modified the female figure and modernized the miner’s clothing. His revision of the 1891 design is the official seal used today.
The walls on this floor feature Honduran mahogany wood finish and decorative plaster cornices. The original furnishings for the offices, supplied by Wollaeger Manufacturing Company, were constructed of Spanish mahogany – a similar looking but much rarer and expensive wood. Offices had both flat and roll-top desks made with brass bases on the legs and chairs finished to match the desks. Some five hundred pieces of original furniture remain in the building. For the 2009 restoration, furniture throughout the Capitol has been replicated or reproduced in the same style as the original.
As you climb the grand staircase to the third floor, look above you. In the 1950s, the space above the stairs was enclosed, but during restoration the area was opened up as originally designed, to provide more natural light. Newly crafted marble balustrades were based on original designs. Drop ceilings, installed in the 1950s to hide cabling, have also been removed, re-creating the original ceiling and showcasing the decorative plaster.
The light shafts visible in the hallways originally helped cool the building, but by the 1970s they had lost their original function and served as pathways for electrical wiring. The original light shafts have been retrofitted to hide the new heating system and conduits. New wiring is hidden by backlit false walls that mimic the look of the original shafts.
House and Senate Chambers
The Idaho Legislature is a citizen legislature that meets annually from January through approximately March. The House chamber is located in the east wing. The Idaho House of Representatives includes seventy members, two from each legislative district. The perimeter wall was added in the 1970s to improve acoustics, and the blue color scheme mimics the U.S. Capitol. The Senate chamber is located in the west wing. The Senate has thirty-five members, and the Lieutenant Governor – who is not a member – serves as Senate president, voting only to break a tie. The color scheme in the Senate chamber is red, also used at the U.S. Capitol. The furniture in the House and Senate chambers has been crafted to resemble the original desks while still accommodating modern technology.
Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) is located in the former Supreme Court chamber at the north end of the floor. The Idaho Supreme Court met in this chamber from 1912 through 1970, when it moved to a new building on Fifth and State streets.
JFAC is comprised of ten members of the House of Representatives and ten members of the Senate. JFAC studies and recommends how the state budget will be allocated. Notice the judicial symbolism in this room. The light fixtures on the wall symbolize “torches of justices.”
Public galleries for the House and Senate are located on the fourth floor. As you walk to the public seating, notice the painted concrete floor. Though not marble, the floor mimics the colors and style of the marble floors below.
Two statues are located on the south side of the rotunda and flank the entrance to Statuary Hall. The George Washington Statue was carved from a single piece of pine by Charles Ostner, an Austrian immigrant. Ostner, working at night by candlelight and from a postage stamp size likeness of the President, took four years to carve the figure. The statue was bronzed and presented to the Idaho Territory in 1869. It was displayed on the Capitol grounds until 1934, when it was brought indoors due to weather damage. The statue was repaired, restored, and covered with gold leaf in 1966.
The second statue is a replica of Winged Victory of Samothrace. The original statue was sculpted about 400â€“300 BC on Samothrace, an island in the Aegean Sea. Lost for centuries, the sculpture was rediscovered in 1863 and sent to the Louvre Museum in France. Idaho received this replica from the Merci (thank you) Train, which was sent to the United States in 1940 by the people of France to express their appreciation for the food, medicine, fuel, and clothing Americans sent to France following World War II. Boxcars filled with gifts from the people of France were sent to the capital cities of each state. Idaho’s boxcar included this replica of Winged Victory of Samothrace.
As you enter Statuary Hall, look up at the barrel ceiling. Hidden from view for years, the ceiling has been restored to its original beauty. When Statuary Hall is filled with light and air, it exemplifies the original interior design of the building.
The open and spacious lawn resembles the original 1905 Capitol landscape. Over time, numerous trees and bushes were planted on the grounds, eventually masking full view of the building. During renovation, many old and diseased trees were removed. The wood has been used to produce gavels, benches, and gift shop souvenirs.
One tree remains – the tree commemorating 9/11, which was dedicated by Governor Dirk Kempthorne. As you walk the grounds and sidewalks, hot water boils beneath your feet. Idaho’s Capitol is the only one in the United States heated by geothermal water. Boise sits atop a large, naturally occurring geothermal resource where water is pumped from three thousand feet underground.
As you stand at the Capitol steps, you are looking at the main ceremonial entrance where visitors are greeted and inaugurations are held. A replica of the Liberty Bell, molded in France, stands at the base of the stairs and was given to the state by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1950. Two giant spheres of Montana granite flank the thirty-three steps. Don’t forget to look up at the bronze plated copper eagle perched atop the Capitol dome. It’s difficult to guess its size from such a distance, but it is 5'7" tall.
Erected in 1906, Pioneer Monument – located on the southeast grounds – honors pioneers of the Old Oregon Trail. The national movement to preserve the Oregon Trail was organized by Ezra Meeker, who travelled west to Oregon on the trail in 1852 by oxcart. In 1906, at age 76, he began work to preserve the trail and in time he followed the trail by auto and airplane.
The Model 1840 cast-iron cannon is a seacoast gun used by the Confederacy in the Civil War and was purchased by State Treasurer S. A. Hastings and Senator William Borah.
Dedicated in 1927, the Steunenberg Memorial, south of the Capitol’s main entrance in Capitol Park, honors Governor Frank Steunenberg, who served Idaho from 1897 to 1900 and was assassinated in 1905.
The Abraham Lincoln Statue, south of the Steunenberg Memorial, was originally placed on the grounds of the Old Soldier’s Home in 1915, approximately three miles west of the Capitol. When the Old Soldier’s Home was demolished in the 1970s for construction of Veterans Memorial State Park, the Abraham Lincoln Statue was moved to the grounds of the Veterans Administration at the site of Old Fort Boise. An expansion project in 2008 led to the removal of the statue, which was placed at its current location and rededicated in a ceremony on February 12, 2009.
The Grand Army of the Republic Monument (GAR), located on the northwest grounds, was donated in 1935 by the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic to honor the men of the Union Army who served in the Civil War.
Capitol Mall Geothermal Energy Project Facts
- Geothermal heat is natural heat from below the earth’s surface.
- Boise sits atop a large, naturally occurring geothermal resource. Hot water is tapped and pumped from a source 3,000 feet underground.
- In 1892, a hot water heating district was created for Warm Springs Avenue, the first such district in the United States.
- The energy crisis of the 1970s led to a renewed interest in the use of geothermal heat.
- Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus requested a federal feasibility study on the possibility of using geothermal energy to heat state buildings in the Capitol Mall.
- The Capitol Mall Geothermal Energy Project was completed in 1982.
- State buildings on Franklin and Jefferson streets between 3rd and 8th streets are heated using geothermal energy.
- Idaho’s Capitol is the only state capitol in the United States heated by geothermal energy.
- The geothermal well is located in a small building in the parking lot behind the Len B. Jordan Building.
- Using geothermal energy to heat state buildings saves the State of Idaho approximately $250,000 in heating expenses every year.
Welcome to the Idaho State Capitol. For over a century this building has stood as the foremost symbol of democracy and sovereignty for the state of Idaho. Since its construction in 1905, governors, lawmakers, tourists, local residents, students, and teachers have all walked the halls of this magnificent building.
When John Tourtellotte designed the Capitol he used light shafts, skylights, and reflective marble surfaces to capture natural sunlight and direct it to the interior space. For Tourtellotte, light was a metaphor for an enlightened and moral state government.
This online tour will guide you through each floor of this beautiful facility and the exterior grounds – imparting the rich history of the Capitol from the construction of the original building through the 21st century restoration project.Funding for this online tour is provided in part by the Idaho Commission for Libraries and BroadbandUSA.
Andy Erstad of Boise has been a member of the Idaho Capitol Commission since 1998 and is the only licensed architect on the Commission. Most of this interview was conducted in early 2009. A follow-up interview was conducted in October of 2009.
Do you remember when Gov. Phil Batt asked you to join the Capitol Commission? I was tremendously honored. This is the state's building and this is the state's house and it was an opportunity to give back. I learned under the tutelage of Charles Hummel, and it was a very interesting opportunity.
I had been involved in a number of historic renovations and restorations of projects that the firm had done, so I had an inkling of what lay ahead. As we got further into it, it became very apparent, the magnitude and the depth at which we were going to have to go into this grand old house, to bring it back to contemporary times while not losing any of the historic flair.
What was it that worried you? Walking around with the head of the division of public works, who was in charge of this building, he made a funny comment that he felt the building was probably held together with all of the leftover tele-data communication wiring. With each new company that came in to do communications, the old companies would just abandon their wires which were strewn all around and hidden in places we didn't see. We knew at that point that undoing 90+ years of maintenance and technology changes was going to be a significant challenge.
And then the other challenge that became apparent was: could the artisans be found to repair the scagliola? Were we going to be able to get comparable marble? Were quarries even open? Were veins where the stone came from even mineable? So those challenges always present themselves in historic restoration/renovation. The design team and the contracting team took away the fears quickly as we got into the process.
This has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, hasn't it? After the withdrawing of the first appropriation, a lot of the commissioners were disappointed but never lost faith, and a lot of the legislators never lost faith, and the governor didn't lose faith, and I think that kind of leadership gave us the signal that something was going to happen. We knew something had to happen; and we knew that if we could weather the storm and get into the right cycle, which is what we did, we would eventually get the project funded and the vehicle to complete the work necessary.
The mantra has been 'on time and on budget,' and we were really delighted when John Emery from Jacobson Hunt came into the commission recently and said, I'd like to deliver the building a day early. He said there's just something about fighting November 13th that is a little unsettling, so we'd like to turn it over Thursday, November 12. And we were very fine with that.
Budget-wise, of course we don't see all the numbers until the final accounting; but all of the indications right now are that the project came in on time and under budget.
Most Idahoans probably had no idea what would be attempted with this project. It was the commission's intent that this project bring back the glory of the building. We talked often about the fact we weren't going to make this look like a brand new building on the outside. We were going to preserve, repair, renovate areas that needed it, but we weren't going to go in and sandblast the exterior shell to make it look brand new. That would have been in complete contradiction with the goals â€“ and it would have put undue wear on the building.
Behind us is the statuary hall, which had been broken into a couple of offices; a drop ceiling put in; the pilasters and the molding just cut right through. No sensitivity. It was business as usual. We needed some offices and that's how we were going to achieve them.
So, as these spaces re-emerged, as the team got back to the historic fabric of the design and the intent of the design, we were able to bring those spaces back. And I think the people who thought, 'oh it's a little paint, it's a little polish,' really will be surprised when they come in and see the changes and the improvements.
Everyone seems to like the new Statuary Hall. Is it still your favorite room? I remain in the camp of the Statuary Hall for one reason: it's the one room that, in a very simple way, we could see all of the things poorly done to the Capitol over the years, and how deliberate treatment and respect of the original design could bring back such an amazing space.
It symbolizes in my mind the fruits of the commission and the fruits of everyone working on the project. It was basically a modified office space at the expense of the simple beauty that it embodied; and that beauty has been returned to the people.
You were there to see all of the dropped ceilings, the cut-up moldings and trims, the cut-out vaulted ceiling. Those were all utilitarian moves to create office space in a space that was never anticipated for offices. So for the design team to be able to come back and the artisans and the contractor and everyone involved to come back and create a beautiful statuary room, it sort of epitomizes the global effort that was undertaken.
I love the Statuary Hall, but I also get the luxury to step back and say, this is an amazing building. Everything about it is amazing; and every time I walk through it, I get to see something new, even though I may have walked past it two days before. It just is growing on me in a complete form now.
There is that old saying in our industry, that the devil is in the details, or the design is in the details, and I believe that the design is a holistic response; and it's the wide-angle view, and it's the close-up view; and if the close up view doesn't work, it really challenges the wide-angle view to work. In this building, I believe it all works beautifully.
The original architects — John Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel — were pretty sharp, weren't they? The design of the building is remarkable from a number of standpoints. First, it was phased. It would accommodate growth, it would accommodate the rise and fall of budgets, and it would ultimately become the iconic statement for the state's house. Who would have expected a classical style building in the central Idaho plains that referenced really, the power and the strength of a young state and a growing state?
Tourtelotte and Hummel did a marvelous job of designing a building that spoke to the people, that created a sense of awe, that was ingenious in its design in terms of bringing light and ventilation in. Of course, when this building was first designed, there wasn't air conditioning; electric lights were somewhat limited.
A lot of the things we value today and a lot of the things that are actually coming back into the renovation and the restoration were things that were not even possible back in those days. The fact that we're able to bring them back in and maintain the framework is pretty remarkable.
Our hats go off to the original designers who were able to have the vision and the opportunity to build something that could grow with the ages and not be totally changed. In fact we are undoing some of the original changes in the 1950's and '60's, to get back to Tourtelotte and Hummel's original design.
Do you think they would have approved of the new wings? The design team spent so much time studying the original drawings and the original design; and the proposal to do the underground wings preserved the original design intent. In other words, you have no new structures projecting up in front of either the east or the west wing. You see skylights and a low stair tower and some small ventilation shafts, but you don't see a building obscuring the original design.
When Tourtelotte and Hummel designed the building at the turn of the century, they designed it so that it could be phased. And the design team took that same notion and added the underground wings to accommodate the growth of the state.
And with the addition of those wings, we pick up auditorium space, public hearing space, offices for a growing legislative wing. The opportunity for the capitol to be brought back to its grandeur is enhanced because, prior to having those spaces, people were pushed into every little nook and cranny, and the use was modified and changed. So we have that great opportunity to recapture those spaces and bring them back to their glory, like the Statuary Hall.
Just the scaffolding in the rotunda was pretty impressive! The scaffolding is almost a building in itself! It's a tremendously expensive structure that needed to be put in place in order to do the work. The work included removal of distemper paint which is no longer used. It created problems for applying new paints on top of the dome inner surface.
We had to create this infrastructure in the dome so that the workers could touch every single surface. The dome is spectacular, and it requires that somebody fix all of the age-old blemishes, remove the paint and then come back in and repaint for the next 100 years. That's a very tactile exercise, so the scaffolding was put up to provide that support system.
Similar scaffolding was put up in the senate and the house chambers in order to repair and restore those ceilings as well, so you actually build within the structure in order to undo and redo, and then you take down that scaffolding, and it reveals the beautiful work that everyone has done.
Initially the top of the scaffolding was at the top of the dome so you had the opportunity to actually go up and get to the very top oculus before you get into the very small piece, the lantern.
As a commissioner and as an architect it would have been great fun to devise a method where you could kind of peel away the layers of the onion and let people see the work going on inside just for the pure awareness of how much work has gone into this building. It's easy to look at the outside and see a bunch of construction trailers and a bunch of plywood protecting all the great stone and the entries, but there is not a lot of indication of what is going on inside; and I think people would have a different appreciation if they recognized just how complicated the scaffolding behind us was.
How do you think Idahoans should view this massive undertaking? I think the attitude of some will be negative. The attitude of some will be incredibly positive. The hope from my perspective as a commissioner is that people will look at the renovation and recognize that we have preserved the state's house for another hundred years, and that we have put into motion technologies and systems that will allow easier integration of new technologies in the future.
We've spent a lot of money on the project, and we feel that that money will carry the building well into the future; and it's preserving an asset that is irreplaceable. So the option was to do nothing and get to a point where fifteen or twenty years down the line, it becomes a life-safety issue, and we either have to lose the building because it's too expensive to fix at that point, or we do it now and we preserve it for the future. And we make it a working capitol, but a fabulous state-of- the- art working capitol.>
Dolores Crow of Nampa is a member of the Capitol Commission and is a former Idaho State Representative. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.
Having just taken a tour of the unfinished Capitol, what do you think? The colors, I think, have fascinated me more than anything. How the color brings out the woodwork. All of the intricacies of the plaster is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm really excited about it. I said I think I'm going to have to run for office again, so I can live over here for a while. But then on second thought, I'd have more time if I didn't. I could just come over and browse!
Your history with this building goes back a ways. It was about the time that Samuelson was taking office, and so I got to watch his inaugural speech from upstairs here in one of the windows that now is opened again. As a kid I can remember coming up here and looking at the old depot down there from what is now the gallery, the domed gallery. Just so many things that I didn't even know I could remember, you know.
The House, of course, is where I spent a lot of years here; and it is magnificent, and I had seen the dome up there from the second dance floor up early on, and it had just been painted, and I couldn't believe it was that beautiful, but from down now on the floor looking up it is even more beautiful. The colors that were chosen are the original colors and whoever did that, in their day certainly had an eye for beauty. It brings out all of the depth of the plaster.
The wood is beautiful in this building, and they've brought all that back and have done a marvelous job of where it had been damaged with lowering the ceilings, they've gone in and re-tooled that. You can't even tell it. It's beautiful. It's something we can be proud of for the next hundred years - well, somebody can, I won't be.
And they've brought in more light. Yes, in the stairwells out there, I couldn't believe it. I didn't even know those windows were up there, so they've been covered up a long time. Yeah, light is probably one of the things that is the most different.
What have you learned by being a member of the Capitol Commission? I kind of came in late, but oh my, to me it's such a privilege to be able to do this and kind of spin forward my time here in this building. It's just something I never dreamed of. I voted to put that into place, by the way, and that was fun, and to fund it, and how it was funded. So this is kind of just the fruition of that work, and I expect to be able to enjoy this beauty for a long time.
What will the citizens of Idaho think about this? I think they are going to be excited. For one thing, we're on time, the project is on time, it's coming in on time; but it's on budget, and you know how I like that. It's on budget, and in some places below budget, and that's even nicer. But we're getting quality for that. These people who are doing this are doing a fantastic job, and it isn't an easy job, but all these little rosettes around that are made out of plaster, they had to redo those and rewire them and they now all have little lights in them.
I think they will be shocked to see how much prettier it is than even it was. We used to have visitors come in here in the summertime, and a lot of times I'd come over and work at my desk on the floor in the summer; and when they would come in, they would kind of creep in, and I'd say, 'oh come on in and look.' I was proud of this building and they'd say, 'ah, this is gorgeous. We've been to a lot of state buildings, but this is the most beautiful.' How can you beat that?
Evan Frasure of Pocatello is a member of the Capitol Commission. He also served in both the House and Senate. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.
Some folks wonder if we really needed to spend so much money on the Capitol building. This is well over a decade-long decision process. It started back in the early 1990's and President Pro-Tem Jerry Twiggs, who has passed away, and House Speaker Mike Simpson had a lot to do with the initial thoughts of creating the Capitol Commission. And all kinds of ideas evolved how to do it.
Whether or not to build a new capital building was even a possibility, but I think it was dismissed rather rapidly. And then when we acquired the Ada county courthouse, that was quite a battle - whether or not just to level that building. And it's interesting that by not leveling it, we certainly had the temporary quarters that we needed.
But the process took a long time to decide because of the magnitude of the project. And when they remodeled before, back in the 1960's, in my humble opinion they butchered the building. They dropped an all-false ceiling, hid so much of the architectural quality of the building; it was really a sad day.
As we've uncovered all these hidden secrets now, it's been an awesome experience. I remember when the original commission was formed, you had guys like Roy Eiguren on that commission and Skip Smyser and some of these folks who came in. They asked us, we've got to get some money, get this initially promoted.
I was transportation chairman at the time, and we passed legislation to create the capital license plate, and that was the early stages. We have a lot of specialty plates now but the capital commission plate was one of the early ones and very successful. It worked out really well for us.
What do you think of the newly refurbished Senate chambers? The access, the accessibility - the public can come in and see what is going on. It was a little confined before, because those walls really did kind of close this chamber until you came out into this actual gallery area. But now, with this gallery open and the windows, we can see so much better the depth of the building.
And then the color scheme they were able to restore: you can almost envision the capitol a hundred years ago. And the changes that we've done - the small details - all the lighting fixtures, all the rosettes that we've had to create. There are seven different sizes of them. There is so much detail that people don't realize, and serving on the commission for as long as I have now, it has been fun to watch those things develop.
The Capitol Commission really had to be flexible, didn't it? Oh, absolutely, yeah. And in today's economy where you've got to explain to the public that we're spending 120 million dollars expanding the capitol as well as restoration, in hard economic times like we are in right now, that makes it a pretty tough sell. And again, realize this has been a decision that was made years ago when we did have the money.
The money is set aside for this program. Not a dime is coming out of the general fund. This project is well funded, but we've kept on budget. The amazing thing is cracking open this old of a building, and to stay on budget and on time is quite an accomplishment. We're within two weeks of being right on time right now, and most of the real hidden secrets, the problems we had to overcome, we overcame.
This tempered paint - the fact we couldn't get any of it to stick to the old walls — that was something we could not anticipate, and that set us behind almost 30 days on this project; and we've made up most of that time. The paint would peel right off. There was no way to get it to stick, so then we had to go through and take down all the old paint structure, and that's just something you wouldn't expect to happen. And we were able to do it, and with the contingency funds we built in, we're still on budget. So it's been fun to see the things we've overcome.
Just dealing with the doors in this building has got to be a challenge. We had craftsmen working on both ends of this capitol when it was originally built, and these doors will vary in size two or three inches; so every door was custom built. And you just don't think about those kinds of issues until you start trying to restore a building.
And that domed area of Statuary Hall. That was completely covered up. I remember when that was just sliced into small little offices in there. Even after they banned smoking , some of the old sinners would sneak up there, and that's where they would smoke, because they could open a window, and nobody would know they were there, and they'd kind of hide in the corners.
So there is a lot of history involved, and when it's reopened to the public, it's going to be fascinating to see the reaction. It's going to be the showcase of the state. This is the state's building, it's the people's building, and I think we're doing it justice.
What about the new wings? The wings are a phenomenal idea, and Senator Joe Stegner from Lewiston deserves a lot of credit. He's the one who originally came up with the concept. We were able to model after what the Texas Legislature accomplished in their capitol building. To keep the historic building, and yet have the modern function of those offices and have the outside entrances to the wings -- the public will have much better access.
And the hearing rooms. I remember when we were discussing an issue dealing with truck weights. It doesn't sound like a big state issue, but it's a big issue if you drive trucks in Idaho. And over in this corner is where my office was, and in that corner I had room for maybe 30 people to squeeze in there. We had 500 trying to get in the door. So it was out in the rotunda, we moved it, we kept trying to accommodate the public. There was no way you could do it in the small hearing rooms we had before. And you've got to realize that 100 years ago the state only had a couple hundred thousand people. We're over a million and a half now, and so we've had growth in the state, and to accomplish it in this building with those wings is fantastic.
Will this building allow for better government? No question about it. The public access, the ability to attend hearings - even a new medium-sized room is larger than the old Gold Room, where we could squeeze maybe 120 people in there.
For the public to be able to have the access to come in and to view the legislative process and the added technology that we have - the ability to use PowerPoint, the ability to present to the legislature as well as the public; it's just a tremendous move toward good government. It really is.
Before we did the remodeling, we just did not have the facility to function properly for the public. Now with these huge hearing rooms, they can come in comfortably, they can hear what is going on, they can see the presentations properly, and the access for the public from the entire state is greatly enhanced.
Janet Gallimore is the executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, and as such, has an automatic seat on the Capitol Commission. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.
What does this building represent to Idahoans, in your estimation? When I think about this building and what it has seen through the years and what buildings and artifacts and archives and all the items that are remnants of our culture -- what they really represent are moments in time. Sometimes we think of history as in the distant past, but, in fact, it was yesterday. And these representations of our culture come from transformational moments of people being here.
So when we think about how many laws were enacted here, how many people have sat in these rooms, in these offices, what stories they have seen over Idaho's history -- this building embodies those transformational moments that allow us to grow and develop as a culture.
One of the things I kept hearing all day today was that this has been a once in a lifetime moment for everyone on the commission. And I think that as we reflect upon all the work that the commissioners have done in ten years - long before many of us have been involved - it's really a testimony to the value people place in Idaho on historic preservation and our cultural memory.
How does Idaho compare to other states in that regard? From what I've seen of people out and about the state, they are fiercely proud of their history. I think that in part comes from sort of that spirit of the west, that pioneers came across the country and they settled here. And the land was tough, and you had to be tough to be able to work that land and survive and grow and develop. And then we transformed the land and made it work to our benefit and ended up with places like the Magic Valley and the Treasure Valley and all the valleys that helped to develop life here as we know it.
So I think that Idahoans have a great amount of respect for their history and the land because it's part and parcel of the same experience.
How do you move everything out of a 100 year old building and store it so you can then find it again when the project is completed? The Historical Society is a remarkable system of cultural resources. That includes the state museum, state archives, the historic preservation office and, as well, historic sites; and the work here has touched every department.
So, for example, all of the records that were held in this building had to be transferred to our state archives; and we have a whole warehouse that is full of state official records that we have to provide access to, to the public.
Everything had to be crated and measured and moved and taken to storage, and many of those things are being restored right now, to be re-installed when the capital opens. Certainly the furniture restoration was no small part of that work, where hundreds of tables and chairs and other things had to be taken out, catalogued, inventoried, looked at in terms of what kind of damage was on those pieces so they could be sent out to bid to be restored. So, whether it was an object or an archival piece or an official record, we have touched and handled it in some way.
Our historic preservation staff, along with our museum and site staff, also helped with technical assistance and providing the research necessary, because we have all the original drawings and receipts from when this building was first built; so all of that information had to be accessed to do the restoration research for the work that had to be done here.
So it's really been quite something to be able to assist in that endeavor, because we hold all of those records for this exact purpose.
What did you see today on your tour that impressed you? I think what I am coming away with today is the sense of place. It's the authentic piece of history that connects us to that particular time that something was built and conceived. But what was amazing today is to see it in its whole.
We've been looking at drawings and schematics and photographs and powerpoints for two years, but to see this in its whole and in its entirety and to see how the light reflects off of the newly painted surfaces, and how the skylights lend that just little misty element of light, and to feel this place - it's a whole different story, and I think the public is going to just be thrilled!
Jeff Youtz is the director of Legislative Services, and as such has an automatic seat on the Capitol Commission. He has been involved in the project since 1998 when he was budget director for the Legislature. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.
Was it a tough sell that something needed to be done to the Capitol? I don't believe it was. I think it was pretty self-evident that we were actually late in reacting to doing what was necessary to bring this building back to its original grandeur. The stars just weren't lined up right when we made our first attempt back in 1998-1999 to set up the funding package for it. We had an economic downturn; we had to take back the funds that we had set aside for the original effort and wait until the time was right; and we got the funding together once again to undertake this project.
Where does the money come from? The first time we undertook the effort to fund this, we used a combination of general funds and endowment funds from the capitol building; but when we went into that economic fall, we had to take those general funds back. So the second time around, we picked a funding source from an increase in cigarette taxes that would not be in competition from other agencies; so it was a very specifically earmarked source of funds that we felt would be safe from any economic downturns. So that's what we ended up doing.
But the Capitol Commission never lost sight of the goal? I think at the core of this whole discussion is that the original architect, John Tourtelotte, wanted to create a facility that the occupants had to live up to. And I think that is what has driven this whole vision. Ad he set the bar pretty high.
The classical architecture and the rotunda area with the massive pillars forming that central circle, I think, represented kind of a core moral compass for those common American traits that we were supposed to hold near and dear to us.
The canopy of stars overhead perhaps represented some -- if not divine guidance -- maybe divine protection. And of course the natural light is what is really marvelous about this facility. It just bathes the whole rotunda area and entire facility with light, which I think represents the openness that representative government should be conducted in.
I think John Tourtellotte tried to develop the complete antithesis to the dark, smoke-filled corridors of power, and build a facility that public officials had to live up to, and conduct public business out in the open; and I think he succeeded marvelously.
I've worked in this capital building for 30 years, and every day I've come into this building I always catch myself finding something different, looking up, kind of smiling and almost nodding to myself that I was so lucky to be able to work in this building.
As I said, he set the bar pretty high for the Capitol Commission to reach that level of restoration and bringing back this original building. And the real challenge for us in this project is we're not only restoring the building, we're expanding the building and building wings, an expansion of the capital building. So we had a tremendous responsibility to make sure that our additions to this capitol building lived up to Tourtelotte's vision of this facility.
Do you think Tourtellotte would be pleased? I think he would be pleased, particularly with the use of natural light in those wings, a lot of marble and woodwork. It flows out from the central rotunda like this building is designed. So I hope he would be pleased with what we've come up with for the expansion.
We were trying to look out 50 to 100 years to accommodate the growth and use of this building. Our primary goal with the expansion of the wings was to provide the public hearing rooms for the legislature. The committee hearing rooms are the work engines of the legislature. Nothing gets to the House or Senate floor that hasn't first gone through a committee. And in the old capitol building, sadly, people were spilling out into the hallways and really could not get an opportunity to participate.
I think Tourtelotte would approve of the functionality we're providing, that we're giving the public finally an opportunity for everyone to come in, have a seat, participate face to face with policy makers. And I think that we've succeeded in doing that with the design of the wings.
Folks have to wonder what changes will occur because of the new wings. By diffusing out some of the functions into the wings, there will be a change, perhaps, in the culture of the legislature and how we operate. We're not quite sure what face that is going to take, but, before, where legislators were congregated - particularly in the House - they had no offices. Now they will at least have their own work space or office down in the garden level; but it will probably pull the center of activity away from the chambers perhaps and diffuse it more throughout the building.
When Tourtellotte and Hummel started working on the Capitol in 1905, there were complaints, that it was too expensive. I imagine, with the downturn in the economy, you've had to field some complaints.
I think the need for this project has been a decade in the making; so I think, from a public perception standpoint, the public understands that this is a wonderful project for the state of Idaho.
We have a set budget amount that we've tried to keep to. That has presented challenges for us because of trying to stick to John Tourtelotte's vision of this facility. On the one hand, we want to make this a very cost-effective project; but on the other hand, we do not want to sacrifice any of the elegance of this facility. We didn't want to shortchange ourselves with marble or woodwork. There were some very creative things this project team did to save us a great deal of money; and I think the construction project, the design team, the architects deserve a great deal of credit for bringing this project basically in on-budget and on-time, without sacrificing any of the original vision for the project.
What will folks notice when they walk into the newly refurbished Capitol? I think they will be struck by the raised ceilings, the original raised ceilings in a lot of the conference rooms and office space. Over the years, we've compromised that design when we've put heating and ductwork and things like that in our ceilings; but we've gone back to that elevated feel in these rooms. So there is an airier feel to the whole building.
And there's a subtle two-tone paint approach that we've taken in the chambers of the House and the Senate, which I think really accentuates the beauty of the domes and really makes the architecture pop when you walk into those chambers.
It seems the wings have allowed a return to the original design of the original Capitol. That is an excellent point. We could not expand and blow out some of these beehive-type offices that have evolved over the years in this building without having a place to put them. So, as we built the wings and pushed functions out in the wings, it has opened up the core capitol building, and that has been a very important aspect of this project as well.
And again, the openness and the use of natural light in the main corridors of the wings -- it's just going to be beautiful and is consistent with the rest of the building.
How modern will this building be in terms of communications? We've put in all the data communication lines necessary to function as a 21st century government operation. We've tried to make that subtle. We will use flat screen technology for presentations in some of the conference rooms. We'll probably use flat screen technology on the floor of the chambers to capture the voting process in the House and perhaps the docket and agenda process in the Senate.
All of the working offices in the capitol building will be fully operational, using the latest technology, so we're excited about that. We've tried not to make that noticeable. The intent is to restore this building but it will be a very modern, fully functional state of government.
From the very beginning, we wanted to keep our capitol building a working capitol building. A lot of other states have pushed functions out into other modern buildings and essentially have turned their capitol building into a museum.
What we wanted to do was keep this a working capitol building, so that really is what kind of pushed the inclusion of the wings, so that we could keep functions in the capitol building and keep it a working building.
Sandy Patano of Coeur d'Alene is a member of the Capitol Commission. This interview was conducted in February, with a short interview in October of 2009.
What has impressed you on this February tour? Each time that we visit, I think that it exceeds not just mine but everyone's expectations. It is impressive when you see the numbers of people who come here every day, who do the millwork, the plaster, the scagliola, the marble. They are all craftsmen in their own right, and they have created and taken something that has great beauty, but made it even more beautiful.
Seeing the carpeting starting to come in and the finishing touches of tiles and lighting fixtures and the detail that goes in the Senate and the House Chambers as well as the offices is something we couldn't ever actually visualize.
You have to have an incredibly discerning eye, to look at the marble and know what was here before and what actually has been replaced to match. Everything is of the highest quality. I credit the craftsmanship, but also I credit the people who have been involved in the design, and the hours they spent in the planning and the development and the execution. They really have a tremendous talent to do a project of this magnitude, and I think they are to be applauded for that.
What do you think of the new wings? We've been through prosperity in the last decade that I've been on the commission. We've also experienced some downturns in our economy, which have slowed the project down. But I think sometimes in slowing it down, it allowed us a chance to more carefully review what we were doing and to actually make huge improvements and strides, and one of those I believe is the wings. As we protected the historical character and integrity of this building by adding the wings, we are increasing the access for the people of Idaho for generations to come.
At one time, what was a highly discussed topic, I think in the long run will be one of the best decisions that was made.
We certainly can't say that this commission had all of the ideas. There have been numerous commissioners who were initially appointed, who served and made tremendous contributions to the commission and to the project. People who have served on this commission and those who have been involved in staffing it have all come with a high level of commitment and passion for the project, which has made it easier.
The other people we really need to commend are our executive officers – our governor and our legislators – because they have to fund a project; and something of this magnitude, particularly when times get tough, is difficult to stay committed to. I think, fortunately, the legislators made a commitment. They didn't want it to appear self-serving; I think the addition of the wings says that this is to allow anyone who wants to participate in their government an opportunity to actually do so. I think that is one of the greatest accomplishments. And again, when you talk about the wings, that idea actually came from one of our state senators, and I think a core of people who are serving in our legislature today.
In the Capitol there were a series of small offices built to provide more space, which got away from the original design of the Capitol. The room that we're standing in here today was a series of small offices. This floor we're standing on was at a variety of levels with dividers in between. The ceiling in the room was 18 inches lower than it is now. The windows were actually cut off.
It has given us a chance to restore the original grandeur and intent of what Tourtelotte wanted for a capitol, and I think that as Idahoans come through here, they are all going to feel that sense of pride, and will be glad that, as a state, we made the commitment to take a grand building and restore it rather than to level it or not do anything and erect a box in its place.
Do you have a favorite room in the Capitol? I don't have a favorite room, but I get almost emotional, because I replaced Louise Shaddock on the commission. She was a pioneer woman in Idaho who also had a great love and appreciation of Idaho history and its people.
And I think people like her, people who have served in this building, citizens who have never made it to this building, will come here and will feel very fortunate that we have a place that they can call the peoples' house.
I think, when people walk in the building, they're going to be amazed by the attention that was paid to every single detail. People will be surprised, and I think they will be grateful that money was spent to preserve something of this great importance to the people in our state. The best news of all is that the project was on time and on budget. And I think for that, all taxpayers can be thankful.
Steve Hartgen of Twin Falls has been a member of the Capitol Commission since 1998. He is also a member of the House of Representatives. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.
What is your take on the restoration and expansion of the Capitol? This is a wonderful piece of public work. It's our grandest public building in the state, but it has characteristics I think you have to almost think about to really see. One is a sense of proportion. It was designed as a certain place in this city; and as commissioners we wanted to save that sense of proportion. So the design that we chose for underground, below-grade wings was really designed to allow that sense of proportion to remain.
A second aspect is a sense of color and light. I'm not a native Idahoan. I moved out to Idaho in the early 1980's from an eastern state. I think for those of us who come here, the sense of light and shadow, and the way that works both externally on the building and now internally in almost every room, I think people are just going to be astounded at the restored beauty of the facility and how it reflects that kind of wonder, a sense of grandeur of the public place.
In a sense, I think that's what Tourtellotte was thinking about. He was thinking if I could bring a building that has those characteristics, that the people's work would somehow be reflective of the structure in which it occurs.
Has there always been a forward motion with the Commission? I think there's always been forward motion, and it's partly due to the leadership of the commission. Roy Eiguren, Jack Kane, people like Will Hart who have been here who have been involved in it early on, they have always had a sense of moving forward. Yes, we've had some places where we've had to sort of regroup - particularly on the finance side - but out of that has come better designs. To come in on-time and on-budget, that in itself is a tribute to the legislature and to the governors who have led us and the commission members themselves.
One hundred years ago, some folks complained about the expenses associated with building the capitol. Do you think that will happen this time? People who see this building will say ‘Wow, you were able to accomplish this for $120 million in these times over a six or seven year period of time?’ The building speaks for itself in that regard.
But you know, you could hardly point to a public building anywhere that didn't have critics at the time who said, ‘well, it's too grandiose, it's too much.’ I think that we've struck just the right balance between grandeur and majesty but without being grandiose and excessive.
I think it's just going to be a wonderful building, our premier facility, and I hope my great, great grandchildren come here and enjoy it.
Do you have a favorite place in the Capitol? I like the idea that the Senate and the House will have to have lunch together, and that didn't happen previously. The two bodies were separate, and now with them sort of breaking bread together over that short noon hour, I think we're going to have some interesting better dynamics maybe in the two chambers as a result of that. I'm looking forward to that.
I think the building will give us all a sense of common good. These are contentious times; our politics are marked by contentiousness and quarrelsomeness. I would hope that the expansiveness of the building and the sort of grandeur it emits will cause us to think about the larger common good that we all share by being here. We're here every year to serve the people of the state. I think it will help promote that, and I'm looking forward to serving.
Charles Hummel is a retired architect and the grandson of the co-designer of the 1905 state Capitol. This interview was conducted in the summer of 2009.
What are your earliest remembrances of John Tourtellotte and your grandfather, Charles Hummel? I never knew John Tourtellotte, but I certainly knew my grandfather. He died the year that I was a freshman in high school. As a kid, I was at my grandparents' house quite often and of course at the old office. But he was a very quiet man, very German in the old world sense, courtly, very polite. And you know that wonderful story about not telling his wife that he had converted to Catholicism, so he was a man of few words. And he and Tourtellotte had a very super-professional relationship; it was not a relationship of close friendship. They respected each other's abilities, and they were a perfect team.
How did they differ? What did they bring to the collaboration? Tourtellotte, of course, was the promoter, the visionary. He knew how to get work, and he knew how to talk. In fact, he talked and talked. That's what my father told me later that he remembered about Tourtellotte. He talked a lot, and talked into that dictating machine. That's how he got all of his written things done, because they had stenographers that could transcribe that. Tourtellotte was a designer of some capability. He was largely self-trained as an architect, but he knew how to design. His tastes were pretty Victorian, rather ornate.
My grandfather, who was classically trained as an architect in Germany, understood construction thoroughly, and he brought to the firm the classicizing side of the firm. You can see that, for instance, in the series of houses that they did. The earliest houses that Tourtellotte was doing were very Queen Anne, very ornate. My grandfather's influence began to be felt with the houses that became simpler, more classical. That's what he brought to the firm.
They were a pair, and when they opened a branch office in Portland, right at the end of World War One, the agreement they had was it would still be called Tourtellotte and Hummel, but they would be pursuing their own projects, and the Boise office would compensate Tourtellotte for the cost of putting out promotional materials which Tourtellotte would write. That was clearly understood, that Tourtellotte was the PR man in today's terminology.
So what about this “talking machine”? So I was poking around in the office, and my grandfather was there, and in the back room I came across this black old Edison Dictaphone that used the wax cylinders. I asked my grandfather, “What is that thing?” He laughed and he said, “That's a talking machine.” Then my father told me later that the only person in the office who really used it in those days was Tourtellotte. But I think everybody must have used it because they were dictating specifications and letters. But Tourtellotte dictated all of the writings that we now know that he did. It was a state-of-the-art thing at the time, and he used it a lot, apparently. That was his forte. He really knew how to promote and how to talk and how to get people to visualize buildings.
How did your grandfather get to Idaho? My grandparents were both born in Germany in the state of Baden. And he was trained in Stuttgart as an architect. He came to the U.S. apparently in 1885, to Chicago. In any event, he ended up in Everett, Washington. In 1890, he was working there as an architect and a house builder until 1893 when there was this terrible depression. Every bank in the U.S. shut down, and they were starving. He came across a flyer extolling the beauties and the opportunities of the Boise Valley. That impressed him, so he got on the train, stopped off in Weiser on the way, made some acquaintances. Came to Boise, looked it over, and brought his family here in 1895. He bought a house on south 12th St. and almost immediately met Tourtellotte.
At least from 1896, he was working for Tourtellotte or they were working together. The firm didn't come to be called Tourtellotte and Hummel until about 7 years later. They immediately began to get work and in 1896, for instance, they did two or three houses. They did a public school, and other things, and it just went on from there. So, they began to assemble a team of other young professionals. It was a big deal. It was a fully professional architectural firm.
The old drafting room was very quiet, and everybody sat on high stools, and stood very often because the drawings were large, and you would have to lean over. So you would see their behinds and their elbows if you were behind them. They only talked to each other when they had to. The thing I remember mostly was the atmosphere. Everybody smoked cigars. The odor in that room, I still remember very well. It was a combination of cigar smoke, pencil shavings, indie ink and the smell of the tracing linen, which had a distinct odor of its own. Whenever we get out the old drawings from those days and open up a roll that's been archived away for 40 or 50 years, that odor comes out of it.
One of the interesting things about the Capitol is the steel framework of the dome. The training my grandfather had included structural design, which Tourtellotte did not have. The steel framework of the original capitol was basically modern. It was riveted steel instead of high strength bolted or welded, as we would do today; but it was basically the same structural designs that you would do today. The office had people that knew how to do that design and clearly my grandfather was helping to steer the office into that direction.
But there was another young architect working for the firm by the name of Nesbit who did a number of important buildings in Idaho later, on his own. I noticed that his initials are on many of the drawings that cover the structural work. But the structural steel drawings were very detailed, just like they would be today, and they called for a high precision of fabrication. Putting the dome together in particular required quite a bit of knowledge of trigonometry and solid geometry in order to get all those pieces to fit right. As far as I know, they fit perfectly the first time they were put up.
Idaho's capitol was called the most beautiful of the nation's capitols when it was first built. How does it fit into the larger picture? If I'm not mistaken, I think there are 46 state capitols that basically are like this one. They have a dome, and balanced wings on each side. Of course, the model of that is the United States Capitol. So, this capitol follows that tradition. So it's not unique in that sense, but I believe that it's one of the most nicely proportioned ones, and the interior rotunda with the sky light effects, which by the way were a particular Tourtellotte signature. He loved skylights and the central rotunda, that white marble and the white colored scagliola flooded with light, is one of the real achievements of this capitol. Many other state capitols have very ornate rotunda areas, some of them nice or impressive, but this one has a certain quality that I don't think the other capitols have.
Tourtellotte certainly believed that buildings could inspire people to be better individuals. Yes, his writing has clearly indicated that buildings are meant to inspire. A state capitol in particular is meant to exemplify the best qualities of the citizens. If you trace the history of our capitols back to the predecessor, the United States Capitol, Jefferson had a lot to say about that. He didn't design the Virginia statehouse, but he saw to that it was designed like a roman temple, classical Roman architecture, with the columns and the whole thing. He insisted on calling it a capitol and not a statehouse, and what he was thinking of was the Capitoline Hill in Rome. That was the mythical seat of the Roman Republic, and he thought that exemplified the Roman Republic that brought out patriotism, self sacrifice, loyalty, all those kinds of virtues, and he thought that the classical architecture would exemplify that.
That's why he insisted on that in the Virginia Capitol. That was carried over into the United States Capitol and has become the signature of practically all of those 46 capitols in the U.S. that are designed along classical lines.
I've always liked the location of the Capitol. It's fortuitous that it's where it is in the city, at the end of Capitol Boulevard with another signature building, the Depot, at the other end. That wasn't blind luck that made that happen, but it was some foresight that caused that to be built that way.
The vision of Capitol Blvd that was actually laid out by the New York architects who designed the Depot has never been fully achieved. The city set up zoning ordinances for setbacks and that kind of thing quite a long time ago, and by and large, they were observed. Then a great fellow planner by the name of John Bertram designed a new master plan for Capitol Blvd. By that time there had already been some incursions into the visual frame of Capitol Blvd. The Bank of Idaho, for instance was the first one that really kind of destroyed that view. Set too close to the street.
But I have to tell you, you know, the city held off fully enacting that plan until they had already approved the design of the Grove Hotel, which didn't respect the setback one inch. Basically destroyed the visual effect that the planners had for the Blvd, but on the other hand, the city also picked up the ball to do some other things, you know, the Capitol Park, across the street here, the way in which the street was divided around the Steunenberg Monument. Those are things where the city and the state cooperated. So they've made a nice setting for the Capitol, but the grand boulevard scheme has never been realized, except the city is doing its best with landscaping and trees and things of that kind.
In the 1960's you worked on some modifications to the Capitol that changed what your grandfather had done. Yes, I did. It all started really with a study that I was asked to do in 1967 for a legislative committee. That study showed that there's only so much you could do to satisfy the needs of the legislature, and we did as much as we could, considering the limitations of the building. One of the biggest changes was changing the Senate and the House chambers to the configuration that they have today, with the walls around them that walled them off from adjacent hallways.
We tried to create new hearing rooms. We did some damage which has been acknowledged, but it's all being fixed now with this wonderful new renovation. It was a whole succession of projects from that time. Trying to satisfy the real needs of the legislature, which were never satisfied at that time, so this great new renovation and the underground wings are finally taking care of all of the needs of the modern legislature, which wasn't possible to do then.
The early '70s renovations were absolutely necessary. The legislature couldn't exist without those admittedly minimal improvements at the time. The legislative chambers were echo chambers. You couldn't hear yourself think. They had to put in a voting machine in the House. Public address systems were necessary. They had practically no hearing rooms worth anything at all, and that's in spite of the fact that other agencies were moving out of the capitol and making more room for them. The Supreme Court had left, the law library had left, the state museum had left, and the state auditor was going across the street. The legislature was getting into the 21st century, and it couldn't exist the way it was, so that work just had to be done.
But there's been some criticism of those modifications done back then. One of the things that was clear was that we did some damage, also. We tried to get some air conditioning into the building. We didn't have enough money to conceal it properly. There were all kinds of things, but the thing that really sparked where we are today, was the New Years Eve fire, which almost burned down the north wing. When that was put back together again with fire sprinklers, and everything done right, that was an example of how it could be done today. We put a lot of false ceilings in, that kind of thing, and there's been a lot said about that, and I confess I'm guilty for that. But it wasn't irreparable.
So you're excited with this latest renovation? I'm particularly pleased that the addition to the building is the underground extension and not an above ground extension, which would've ruined the balance architecturally, of the building. That committee worked hard through three sessions. That was hard work to convince their colleagues that this is what had to be done.
Roy Eiguren was chosen by Gov. Phil in 1998 to be the first chairman of the recent Capitol Commission. This interview was conducted in the summer of 2009.
What is your involvement with the Capitol building? I was a page in the Idaho State Legislature in 1970. I have this vivid recollection of having gone out on the base of the rotunda as a group of pages, and taking a tour all the way to the top. What a magnificent building! In 1974, I served as an intern in the Secretary of State’s office, and had the chance to poke around, look at different parts of the building, and thought what an incredible building.
But it really came home to me in January of 1979 when I became Deputy Attorney General, and I was assigned, with great pleasure, one of the chambers of a Supreme Court justice that was in the building. It was an interesting experience because, my boss, Dave Leroy, is a great aficionado of history. He said, “Let’s see if we can recreate this office suite in the way it looked when it was completed in 1911.” So we did some historical research. We went into what had been the conference room of the Supreme Court, which was three small cubicles for staff, and we kind of looked around and looked above the false dropped ceiling and saw this magnificent crown dental work as it’s called, up in the upper reaches. So we spent a lot of time and a lot of effort recreating that space. That really, in me, engendered a tremendous interest in this building and the history of this building.
So fast-forward to 1997. I have and had a very close relationship with then-Governor Phil Batt. We’re from the same part of the world and have known each other for a long time. I’ll never forget one afternoon, actually it was in the fall of 1997, and I went in and met with the Gov on several issues, and Gov Batt, in that unique way of his, “Roy, Roy, we need to think about some legacy issues here. What should I be thinking about?” I said, “Gov, I think you should give some consideration to restoring the state capitol. It’s a magnificent building; it looks beautiful. But I’ve done a little bit of research here, and I found out that none of it’s in compliance with the life safety codes. The original plumbing is still here. The good news is it delivers water to where it’s supposed to. The bad news, to places where it shouldn’t be going. And so I think there needs to be some thought given to how we go about that process.”
So I was detailed by the governor to do some research and concluded that we needed to recreate a Capitol Commission.
What is the history of Capitol Commissions? The first Capitol Commission was created in 1905, and it had several elected officials including the governor on it, as well as several citizens. Their role was to plan for a new Capitol building and to put it into effect. So, among other things they did, they went to the great state of Mississippi, and actually followed the model of the Mississippi state capitol, which actually today is a museum. If you go Mississippi, to Jackson, the building looks remarkably like this building.
But the long and short of it is, we put together the legislation that was enacted into law in 1998 that created, for the second time, an Idaho State Capitol Commission. It also provided for an endowment for this building. When Idaho became a state, as most folks know, the federal Government gifted large tracks of real estate, for the schools, for the universities, for the prison, but they also dedicated or gifted several hundred thousand acres for public buildings.
We learned in our research that those lands had actually been sold off - they were never endowed - but they were sold off in large measure to build this building. From 1905 until 1911 when they ran out of money. So the main part of the building was completed, but the wings were not added until 1919-1920.
Part of what we did is track down the residue of those lands. We found that there were 32,000 acres of prime timberland owned by the state, primarily in Valley County, near Cascade, and put that into endowed status. That gave us a funding mechanism for the commission to begin its work, which began in July of 1998.
During the time that I was privileged to serve as the chairman, which was from July of 1998 until my term expired in 2003, we put together as a commission, the plan for restoration of the capitol building. That was focused on a number of things, which actually resulted in our strategic mission statement which is on the website today.
The first question was, “Do we convert this building to a museum, as some states have done, or do we keep it as a working building?” Obviously, the answer was: we want it to be a working building.
Two, as to the allocation of space, “How should we go about doing it?” We made a decision that remains true today, and that is that the people that we believe should be in this building on a continual basis make public policy. That means the Governor, the Lt Governor, and the legislature.
Three, we made a decision on what approach we wanted to take to the renovation and restoration of the building. Our catch line was that we want to bring the building back to its historical grandeur. It was a tremendous statement for the state of Idaho when this was built. There was only about two hundred thousand people in the state. The main structure cost over $2 million, which was a very substantial amount of money at the time. But it was done by our predecessors as a statement to Idaho, its excellence, its sovereignty, and as a result we wanted to go back to those original antecedents and incorporate that into the restoration.
Explain the process the Capitol Commission went through to make possible this latest restoration.
We met with all of the elected constitutional officers. We met with most members of the legislature to get their input, and it corroborated our thinking. We wanted to make this the show place for the state. We didn’t want to make it a museum, wanted to make it a working building. But we also wanted to kind of reopen it up to the public, because, in the 1960s, steps were made to change the nature of the building. That was the culture of the time.
What we learned in all that process was that there was a strong interest in opening up a lot of these spaces that had been covered over in some way, returning back to their historical luster, and two, make the building as accessible as possible to the public, because it is the “people’s house.”
So we began that process of consulting people. We engaged a group of architects that had actually been in charge of restorations of other state capitol buildings; the state of Montana whose building is almost identical to ours in size and built about the same time; Wisconsin; Utah; a number of states. As result of that, we got the benefit of their thinking and incorporated that into our master plan which was produced in 1999- 2000.
That served basically as the planning document for the restoration of the capitol. From there we actually moved forward towards trying to implement that and were successful in the year 2001 to obtain funding to complete the overall master plan, which at the time was priced out at $84 million: $32 million in surplus funds and $32 million in bonds. As we all know in 2003, the economy went south, and so the legislature re-appropriated the money to take back to the General Fund, and so we weren’t able to complete the restoration as we had planned, in time for the 100th birthday of the capitol in 2005.
So, a lot of starts and stops, but was there always a forward vision? Yes, and that forward vision came from a lot of people. It first started with Phil Batt. He is a visionary, and thought it very important that we restore the capitol. He knew, we knew that 80 percent of the cost that we would spend on the restoration, basically was to bring it into conformance with code requirements. That was very important from a life safety standpoint.
We had a lot visionary leaders in the legislature. Mike Simpson was then the Speaker of the House. He was a very strong proponent of moving this forward, and actually personally carried the legislation in the House. Jerry Twigs, who was then Pro Tempe in the Senate, carried it in the Senate. So we had complete buy-in, and I was pleased to report that the legislation passed unanimously. There was actually no dissenting vote, which was significant.
Once we put the capitol commission into place and began this process, there was no stopping. I mean we did, as a group, create a vision with input from all of these folks, and the vision was, this is a very special building for the people of Idaho, it’s very unique. It’s a statement of who we are, and was back in 1905 when they started. It would be the same thing at the beginning of the 21st century. And so once the vision was created and the documents developed, we moved forward on it, and that momentum started and it carries through to this very day.
When you were chairman, was there discussion about expanding the building with wings? When I served as chair, there was no discussion about the wings. I’m personally not a proponent of the wings. There were discussions about doing it at the time, but the commission when I chaired it actually focused on other alternatives, and, in particular, we focused on the state on Montana whose building as I’ve mentioned is identical to ours in size and was restored about ten years before ours, but was built at the same.
The decision in Montana was to essentially take the space that was used by non-policy-making people, the Treasurer, the Attorney General among others, and to move them to offices adjacent to the capitol building, and use that space for the space that’s now in the wings. Also, the thought we had was that the Annex now, the Ada County Courthouse and the Borah building, which are, we think as a commission, excellent, excellent pieces of architecture, could be connected with underground tunnels, and serve as the added space necessary for some of the functions here.
As an ex-commission chairman, what are your thoughts now? I’m remarkably pleased with the way this has come to conclusion. Those that succeeded me in the chairmanship and on the commission have done a magnificent job. They’ve maintained that vision. There’s been very strong support from the state’s elected leadership and from the legislature. So, it’s very much what I personally envisioned when we began this process in the fall of 1997. In addition to that, I’ve spent time, I’ve toured this building several times during the restoration, I’ve gone through the wings, and I’m comfortable that that was the right decision.
But as Bill Roden and others have mentioned, it’s going to completely change the complexion, I think, of the legislative process. The other thing is, just as a simple matter, it’s three very long city blocks from one end of this building to the other when you incorporate the wings. And so there’s a lot mileage involved in that. In addition to that, it will clearly change the nature and character of the legislative process, which I think in the main, in many ways is good. We’re going to have meeting rooms that are appropriately sized for the 21st century. The technology will be first class, which is clearly needed. There’ll be a lot of facilities that will be accessible to the public. That’ll be a plus. So in the main, I’m very pleased by it. I’m thrilled by it.
As someone who personally seeks access to lawmakers from time to time, how does the expansion affect things? It will change the nature of things. It will not be as intimate and as close in as it’s been. And there’s a good side and a bad side to that. I think it will clearly make for a better legislative process just in terms of the way legislation is processed. I think the addition of all of the technology is very significant and will change the nature of how business is done in committees, power point presentations, where that’s not the case now.
How should the public respond to the modified People’s House? I think the people should respond with great enthusiasm and extreme pleasure. This is their building, it’s the people’s house, and it’s something that all Idahoans should be very proud of. It really is the symbol of the state. I had the privilege of writing the preamble to the Capitol commission statute that talks about what a statement this building is in terms of our citizens, in terms of sovereignty, in terms of our territorial integrity. So, they should be very happy.
Back 100 years ago there were some unhappy folks who objected to the cost of the Capitol. We picked up all these old newspaper articles, and there were a lot of nay-sayers. Little known fact, but the Idaho constitution provided that for the first 20 years of statehood, if the legislature put on the ballot moving the capitol from Boise to some other location, they could do so.
And there was a raging debate in the legislature about, you know, we spent all this money, this was in 1907or 1908, the building isn’t complete, we’ll never finish this, we ought to move it somewhere else. So the folks from Idaho Falls, and obviously, predictably Lewiston, made a play to get the legislature to put that on the ballot. It didn’t happen. What saved the day, quite candidly, was for the first time in the history of Idaho, we issued bonds. The constitution allows the opportunity for people to vote on the issuance of bonds for public buildings. They did that, and those proceeds were the only thing that caused this building to be completed, as it was, in 1911.
The first use of the building was in 1912 when members of the executive branch and the Supreme Court came into these chambers. From 1912 until 1920, the legislature actually sat in the old territorial state capitol building, which was to the east of us. The wings weren’t completed until 1920, and the legislature for the first time moved into their quarters in 1921.
It does seem like the criticism this time around is rather muted. I will give the commission that I chaired a lot of credit for that. We engaged in a very significant public outreach. The members of the commission traveled throughout the state, held town hall meetings to get input in addition to the consultation that I talked about with legislature and executive branch officials.
We did a lot of work with the media to get our message out, and I compliment the media for doing a great job. You might recall back in that time frame there were a lot of media articles, and television news stories about the capitol. So I think that got people acclimated to it. The message went out that we’re really focused on trying to maintain the integrity of this building. We’ve got real problems; we’ve 37 HVAC systems. We’ve got the original plumbing. The electrical systems were original with only one update in 1967.
They understood that we need to do something; and so the question was, how do we go about doing it, and how much money are we going to spend? I think the commission from 2003 on has done a great job in terms of moving that forward. I compliment members of the legislature that saw the opportunity to use a special tax, the tobacco tax as a mechanism to debt service on the bonds. And so it all moved together quite seamlessly. So the public acceptance of this restoration started way back 11 years ago.
I, like a lot of folks, bring clients and guests from throughout the world to the building, and they’ve always been awed by it. It’s a magnificent structure. I truly hope that the commission will continue on with what we started, to emulate what John Tourtellotte called the bright beacon of liberty. It’s the bright white shining light that makes for a better meeting place for the development of public policy.
To that end, I truly hope that they will maintain his original architectural integrity as it relates to not putting things on the wall. I mean, his plan was that you would not put murals and pictures and all that up on the walls. I think that’s going to be a tough issue for the commission because they have to make that decision, and there are a lot of competing political pressures on what to do or not to do.