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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: capitol renovation

Thousands tour newly reopened Capitol

Thousands of Idahoans are streaming through their state capitol today, after a noon rededication ceremony that concluded when Gov. Butch Otter said, “I now declare the Capitol building officially open to conduct the people’s business.”

Crowds poured up the steps and through the second-floor doors, and as they passed inside, legislators greeted them, shaking hands and saying, “Welcome to your house.” The newly renovated Capitol, closed for the past two and a half years for restoration and expansion, drew exclamations and comments like, “Look at this!” Big crowds poured through the governor’s office where the governor and First Lady Lori Otter greeted guests and a guestbook soon filled with signatures; children lined up in the Secretary of State’s office to punch the official state seal onto paper for keepsakes.

Around the Statehouse, people marveled over a rediscovered, birdcage-like historic elevator on the first floor; a large, comfy auditorium in the new underground wings in which a video was showing about the renovation project; and the chance to take each other’s picture in the governor’s office, sitting in the Senate president’s seat, and around the elegant rotunda. A teenage girl hurrying up a staircase and talking on her cell phone said excitedly, “And I met the governor!” A new capitol gift shop on the “garden level” (basement) did brisk business in souvenirs ranging from Idaho State Capitol sweatshirts to keepsake wooden keys to the Capitol; musicians played in the garden level rotunda. The capitol remains open to the public for tours until 5 p.m. today.

Ready to reopen…

Idaho’s state Capitol has been renovated and shined up, but it still looks pretty much like it always has - except better. It’s cleaner and brighter, with more of the natural light it originally was designed to let in. It’s bigger, too, with the addition of spacious new underground wings with large hearing rooms to accommodate the public. Behind the scenes, it’s fully updated, and there are now things like handicap-accessible bathrooms on every floor and free Wi-Fi throughout the building.

The Capitol’s been closed to the public for two and a half years, but it’s almost ready to reopen. That process starts tonight with a reception for all the workers who worked on the renovation project and their families, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Then, tomorrow night, there’s a reception for all legislators, former legislators, state employees, and former state employees, according to state Capitol Commission member Stephen Hartgen. Then comes the grand opening to the public, starting with a 30-minute ceremony at noon Saturday on the Capitol’s south steps.

After the ceremony, the Capitol will be open to the public for tours all afternoon, with historical information, a short video and more. On Monday, the Legislature will convene and the Capitol will be back in full use again.

Capitol starts new era in new year

Jake Putnam took this very cool photo yesterday of the Idaho state capitol in our wintry weather; he titled it “Statehouse winter.” After two and a half years of renovation, the capitol reopens to the public next Saturday, Jan. 9th, after a 30-minute rededication ceremony set for noon on the south steps. All are invited; there’s more info here. Three days before the rededication, on Thursday Jan. 7th, Idaho Public Television will air a documentary, “Capitol of Light,” telling the story of the capitol and its renovation; the program airs at 7 p.m. Mountain time, 8 p.m. Pacific, and re-airs on Saturday at 6/5 p.m.; more info here.

Back to work in Capitol

Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith, right, and budget analyst Paul Headlee, left, work on budget issues amid the boxes on the third floor of the state Capitol today. Legislative Services workers were the first to move back into the newly renovated Capitol and go to work; they started moving in yesterday.

Over the next three weeks, elected officials including the governor will follow, and the newly renovated state Capitol will open to the public on Jan. 9 at noon. For now, construction workers are still around for some finishing touches, and protective covering has been laid across the newly refinished marble floors to allow furniture to be moved back in without damaging or marring the finish.

Capitol construction ‘substantially complete’

It’s a milestone for the two-year renovation of the state Capitol: The project has been declared “substantially complete,” and the building is now back in the hands of the state, rather than the contractors. There’s still final work and move-in work going on, however; the first state agency to move back in to the renovated historic structure will be Legislative Services, which is moving in over the weekend and will start working in the Capitol on Monday. Then, over the next three weeks, state elected officials including the governor will begin moving their offices back in. Parts of the Capitol still will remain closed during the process; the whole thing will reopen to the public with a rededication ceremony, housewarming and tours on Saturday Jan. 9, starting at noon. The legislative session will kick off in the building the following Monday; click here to see the state’s announcement about the substantial completion.

A day of contrasts…

Yesterday was a day of sharp contrasts for me, when I went from photographing Idaho’s maximum security prison - likely the least accessible of all our public buildings in the state - to the state Capitol, which traditionally has been the most accessible, but has been closed for renovation for the past two years. It reopens in January, and while workers are still working away, it looks very cool. Here’s a view of the dome from inside the rotunda, with the new historically correct two-toned paint job that brings out the architectural details…

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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