Quite the surprising sight in the east wing corridor of the state Capitol this afternoon as a couple of reporters strolled in: A 2-foot slab of marble wainscoting trim lay smashed on the floor in many pieces, alongside a toddler, the assistant director of a local day care center, and a Capitol security officer. It turns out the marble unexpectedly crashed to the ground at the touch of a 5-year-old girl – a troubling prospect. This same solid marble trim runs along both sides of the entire east and west wing corridors in the newly renovated Capitol; it’s common for folks deep in conversation in the Capitol hallways to rest their elbows on it.
Brandy Turner, assistant director of New Horizon Academy, brought about 33 kids aged 5 to 8 to the Capitol today for a self-guided tour, and the youngsters stopped off to use the restrooms in the lower-level east wing. While some were waiting for the others out in the hallway, two 5-year-old girls reached their hands up to the small marble ledge of the wainscoting, each on a separate section. “We heard this big crash,” Turner said, as one of the sections crashed to the ground. Fortunately, neither child was hurt, but “they both kind of jumped,” Turner said. “One started crying.”
The rest of the youngsters were pointing fingers and saying they didn’t do it; Turner contacted authorities, and House Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms and Stu Stewart responded, along with Michelle O’Brien of Legislative services. Both said nothing like that’s ever happened before in the Capitol wings, which opened in 2010.
The $120 million Capitol renovation was completed on time and under budget to great acclaim; it opened up large new public hearing rooms and fully renovated the historic building. But just last week, the state agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to make $400,000 worth of modifications to bring the renovated Capitol into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The falling trim adds a new chapter to the story.
“I just got the report this afternoon, and I got it over to our Capitol architect, so we are actively assessing that piece of marble that fell and the cost to replace it, and we’ll incorporate kind of a look around at the other pieces to see if anything else indicates that there might be other pieces with issues,” said Jennifer Pike, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration. “We are actively investigating it right now.” She added, “I immediately reached out to our architect, and we’ll get working on it.”