The State Capitol dome was pictured through a backhoe on Robert Street and University Avenue when light rail construction was happening there.

Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

A veepstakes winner

Another Minnesotan has gotten a vice presidential nod. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein tapped Minneapolis-born anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala to be her running mate. Honkala, 49, is best known for her quixotic run for Philadelphia sheriff last year, but she got her start in the Twin Cities, fighting home foreclosures and trying to match abandoned houses with homeless families. Kevin Diaz

Tweet of the week

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, @PatGarofalo, on July 10, after the Minnesota secretary of state reworded the titles on both of the GOP’s state constitutional ballot questions: “Disappointed to wake up this morning and find Mark Ritchie has renamed St Paul — 'Ritchieville’”

Hot Dish Politics: Capitol gets worked from top down

  • Article by: JENNIFER BROOKS
  • Star Tribune
  • July 14, 2012 - 8:38 PM

When it comes to fixing Minnesota’s aging State Capitol, you start at the top and work your way down.

“I love seeing the top of the Capitol dome,” a delighted Gov. Mark Dayton said last week, soon after workers removed the scaffolds and windscreens  to reveal the building’s crowning glory — its newly refurbished finial, a golden ball at the very top. “I’ve never seen it so shiny.”

Of course, everything below the finial remains a work in progress. The 107-year-old building needs millions of dollars’ worth of work. The facade is crumbling. The windows are leaking. The paint is peeling. 
“I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Dayton joked about the newly revealed dome. “They take down one scaffolding and put up another.”

Minnesotans will have at least a few months to enjoy an unobstructed view of the dome. Next year, the scaffolding goes back up as crews move on to the next item on the dome repair list: replacing its large, leaky drum windows.

“People are always excited to see the scaffolding come down,” said Wayne Waslaski, senior director of real estate and construction services for the Capitol. “Pointing to the finial, it gives you a sense of how magnificent the building must have looked when it was first built” in 1907.

The finial had been under wraps since September. Once the repairs were finished, crews had to wait for just the right conditions — 10 consecutive days of warm, dry weather — to apply the gold leaf.

Less showy, but even more important, was the work they did to fix drainage problems that were further damaging the dome and the interior paint beneath.

The restored finial shines over the chaotic work zone that is the Capitol. The entire site has turned into a cloud of construction dust and the clatter of jackhammers, a situation augmented by the ongoing work on the University Avenue light-rail corridor.

The Capitol’s west staircase is a pile of rubble as workers tear out and replace water-damaged steps. Another crew is tunneling under University Avenue, its work funded by part of $44 million in  renovation money that the Legislature included in its bonding bill this year. The new tunnel will make it easier to deliver supplies to the Capitol without pulling the trucks up next to the building itself.

In December, the Department of Administration will submit its estimate for how much money it will need to continue the restoration efforts next year.

For those who haven’t gotten a close look at the dome lately, the finial caps an ornate cupola. The Georgian marble dome itself was designed by architect Cass Gilbert to resemble St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Even more gold leaf glitters below on the Quadriga — four gilded horses pulling a chariot, representing the progress of the state and the power of nature.

For more information about the Capitol and its ongoing preservation efforts, visit

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