In 1989 a major restoration and renovation project was undertaken following the construction of a new facility to house the State’s Information Management Services. The project included 30,000 square feet of space in the Capitol vacated by data processing, and additional tower space.
The project included the creation of two new public hearing rooms for the Nebraska Legislature, the renovation of offices for the legislative and judicial branches, and the adaptation and expansion of an existing floor trench system to meet the needs of expanding communications/fiber optics technology.
The Hearing Rooms on ground level were created from space occupied by the state’s computer mainframe, and feature state of the art audio and video technology. Original Capitol finishes were replicated in the creation of the hearing rooms.
As an additional part of the project, ground level offices on the east side of the Capitol were renovated and updated. Raised flooring and lowered ceilings were removed, and doorways through original walls repaired. Offices were recreated to match the original configuration using compatible finishes. The trim and molding for the new offices was recreated in walnut, the Capitol’s original finish material. The original green battleship linoleum was replaced with similar a shade of green pile carpet. Interior walls were created to allow for private office space. These walls contain glass panels like those in other original areas of the Capitol to allow light penetration from the large courtyard windows.
In the tower, and throughout the building, the floor trench system Goodhue devised to accommodate electrical and telephone wires during original construction was opened and expanded to accommodate wiring for computers, fiber optics, and an internal closed circuit television network.
More recent restoration and preservation work in the Capitol has addressed the Governor’s Suite and the East Legislative Chamber.
The Governor’s Suite consists of the Reception Room, the Governor’s Hearing Room and the Governor’s Private Office. This suite of offices is the most elaborately decorated area of the Capitol. Each space in the Suite, although fitting within the overall Neo-Italian Renaissance design, is finished in a manner unique to that space.
The quality of original textiles used in the drapery, upholstery and wall hangings throughout the suite were among the most exotic materials available during the original construction period, 1922-1932. Floor to ceiling velvet drapery and wall hangings were used in each area, but of different patterns and colors, as were the complimentary hand woven and chenille rugs. Since the original drapes and their associated hardware were lost years ago, Restoration staff used period photographs from the Capitol Archives and remaining evidence on the walls, such as shadow lines, to reproduce and reinstall the drapery and its hardware.
Period photographs revealed a subtle jacquard pattern in the damask drapery fabric which was recaptured in the reproduction fabric for the Reception Room. From one remaining original bronze drapery pull, staff was able to reproduce replacements for the entire office suite.
In 1998 the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature appropriated funds the for the restoration and renovation of the East Legislative Chamber. The preservation work in the East Chamber involved the restoration of the original finishes in the Chamber and renovation to accommodate the latest audio/video technology. The Chamber was first completely scaffolded and cleaned; then the polychrome tile in the vaulted ceiling was cleaned with a mild soap and other surfaces vacuum-cleaned. Consultants were brought in for specialized cleaning of stains on the Rumford wall tile.
Desk lamps were repaired, and the original voting stations repaired and returned to the Senator’s desks. Original carpet was replicated and the new rugs used in areas of the Chamber which lacked them. The restoration of the bracket lamps in the East Chamber involved removal of the lamps from the walls, cleaning and rewiring, and the replication and replacement of broken shades. The Chamber was also fitted with new audio/video technology. When possible, the addition of audio and video equipment was masked with finishes which blend with the background colors of the Chamber’s surfaces.
It has only been since 1997-98 that some of the last original 1920’s rugs have been removed and placed in the Capitol Collections for long-term storage, and replaced with compatible replicas. It is the goal of the Capitol Preservation Program to keep original materials and artifacts in use in the building until such a time as their long-term existence cannot be assured.
When original items must be removed, they are replicated with exact reproductions when possible, or if time and budget do not allow, they are replaced with compatible temporary replacements. In every case, original materials removed from active use are placed in the Capitol Collections for long-term care and study to ensure reproductions are an exact match to the original article.