Capitol Renovation Reveals Hidden Ceilings

General Services Commissioner Steve Cates says drop tile ceilings were covering the original brick groin vaults. Photo credit Blake Farmer/WPLN

General Services Commissioner Steve Cates says drop tile ceilings were covering the original brick groin vaults. Photo credit Blake Farmer/WPLN

The most significant renovation of the state capitol building in decades is nearing completion. Close to $16 million was spent since work began in May.

In a previous renovation, the basement of the capitol was reworked to house office space and meeting rooms. But apparently, the drop tile ceiling covered up Roman-inspired brick arches.

General Services Commissioner Steve Cates gave reporters a tour Friday.

“When we pulled all the ceilings out and found these old structural vaults, we decided that it would be great to expose that so you could see some of the original construction which does date back to the 1850s.”

Besides the brick arches in the bowels of the building, a casual visitor could miss the updates altogether. Most is behind the scenes – new air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems, which hadn’t been replaced since the 1950s. Even the new carpeting – which was custom-made and shipped from England – matches the old flooring exactly.

Those whose offices were displaced by the renovation begin moving back next week. The capitol reopens to the public December 17th.

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