As the State Capitol nears completion of a $300 million-plus renovation, public tours of the building are set to resume on Jan. 3, coinciding with the 2017 legislative session.
“I am certain guests to the Capitol will be amazed to see the beautifully restored decorative wall panels and ceilings in some areas and especially the fine art,” site manager Brian Pease said in a statement announcing the resumption of tours, which were last offered in May 2015.
Some finishing work will continue in 2017, meaning limited or no access to the roof, the west wing third floor and the north wing ground floor. That work is expected to be completed by summer.
This is the Capitol’s first reconstruction and renovation since it opened in 1905. For more than two years, workers have been repairing the roof, the exterior and much of the interior. The building has been closed to tours and the public during the remodeling, reopening only briefly during the previous legislative session.
At a time of often paralyzing political deadlock in St. Paul, restoring the Capitol was a rare state expenditure to get enthusiastic and overwhelming bipartisan support from legislators. Even as costs have crept up from the original $270 million estimate to $310 million, support has remained strong.
The state is planning a grand reopening in the fall of 2017, with the $400,000 price being picked up by private donors.
One point of conflict that came up in the midst of the renovation was whether to rehang six massive paintings depicting Minnesota soldiers in Civil War battles in the Governor’s Reception Room and anteroom.
The Minnesota Historical Society’s executive council voted unanimously last week to reinstall the century-old paintings that were removed during the renovation. The board decided that honoring veterans and maintaining the room’s historical integrity trumped arguments that the room should feature a broader array of art.