Sneak peek of Minnesota Capitol as restoration nears completion

- For more than a year, scaffolding has surrounded the outside of the Minnesota State Capitol as stone masons worked to restore all of the marble. In two weeks, most of the scaffolding will disappear as they wrap up their work, but the real glory is on the inside.

“It needed a lot of work and I’m just glad that it’s going to be set up for the next 100 years,” said project manager Jason McMillen.

The dawn of that next century is already in the skilled hands of 340 dedicated craftsmen. Their work is everywhere -- from the east wing to the skylights to the floors, all creating new spaces for the public to once again use their Capitol.

“The overall ability to utilize the building is going to change dramatically for the public,” said Wayne Waslaski, senior director of the Department of Administration.

What they’ll also notice is what’s always been in plain sight but couldn’t be seen -- the artwork. Inside the old Supreme Court chambers, a once soot-covered mural of Moses accepting the Ten Commandments is vibrantly restored. On the other side of the chambers, artists are still working on the Socrates mural.

“A lot of what they’re doing is going back through chemical processes and different techniques, removing all of the dirt and the grime and all the past varnishes and repair work and get back to the vibrant colors that were on display in 1905 when the building opened,” Waslaski said.

One of the more impressive spaces inside the Capitol is the old Rotunda. The scaffolding rises to the top of the dome, weighing 256,000 lbs. -- all of it to allow workers to install duct work and restore the art. When it finally comes out, even workers say the public will be impressed.

“I think if you’re familiar with the building and you come in here for the first time you’re probably going to be like, ‘Woah, this is different,’ but cool different,” McMillen said.

There’s already a difference in the House Chambers, where electricians have completely re-wired the entire room. The desks are back in place, and the green carpeting has been replaced to match the original color.

“When we started the project one of our goals was architectural integrity,” Waslaski said. “We wanted zone-one spaces, those key spaces in the building to reflect how they looked in 1905.”

While the House Chambers will re-open for this spring’s legislative session, you have a lot longer to wait to see the rest of the building. It doesn’t reopen to the public until next January.

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