After over four years and $300 million, people in Wyoming got to see what the restoration of the Wyoming Capitol looks like. The building had been falling apart and several lawmakers argued that something had to be done. But spending money on the project and the adjoining office building was questioned by many across the state since it came at a time when Wyoming was strapped for money.
But when it was time to take a peek, an estimated 2,000 people stood in front of the capitol last Wednesday. The building was restored and renovated with the goal of taking it back to how it looked around the time of statehood while finally solving problems caused by having such an old building, which included very small committee rooms.
Former Senate President Tony Ross was among those who oversaw the project and he proudly told the crowd that the capitol is once again open for business.
"It's the people's house and we've made it so for you…more so than ever before. "
After a number of speakers there was a ribbon cutting and then people were allowed in. What they saw was a building that now features newly uncovered paintings, art, and decorative walls that were restored to their original splendor after being covered up multiple times over the years.
This includes a historic room that served as the Supreme Court that had been converted into an office space. Featuring gold and light blue wall paper that was restored using computer technology, the room is a highlight. There's even a balcony. The room is also historic, it's where legislation was signed to first give women the right to vote.
The House and Senate carpet and walls have been returned to their original colors and light now streams through a window located behind the desk of the speaker of the house. Among those getting a glimpse of the facility were Amy and Harlan Edmonds of Cheyenne. Both are former state representatives who were initially concerned about some of the spending. Amy Edmonds was thrilled.
"I mean it's stunning, it's so beautiful. I'm especially excited about the gorgeous, I mean the old judiciary, I mean it's so beautiful."
Although husband Harlan Edmonds isn't sure about the window in the house.
"I think it would take some getting used to. "I think having the natural sunlight is…but I haven't seen the committee rooms yet but I assume they are the single best improvement, because those were sardine cans."
The committee rooms are bigger and better with technology that will allow some meetings to be streamed on-line. Denver resident Susanna Delissalde was with her husband who sculpted four unique statues that have been placed at the top of the rotunda called truth, justice, courage and hope. She said the capitol is a treasure.
"It's so dignifying, it's so…you can see the work of everybody in each corner and each piece that they've done with so much love. It's wonderful, it speaks volumes, it's a building that speaks loudly," said Delissalde.
That's music to the ears of Paul Brown who was one of the project managers. He said they had to be painstaking in their approach.
"Every time we turned around we discovered something new, we'd find a piece of history that hadn't been revealed before, it was very interesting, but very difficult."
Former governor Matt Mead admits he went back and forth on moving forward with the project, but he eventually came around. Now he is very impressed.
"It is inspiring, it really is inspiring and think that is important. For the young people who go through there they should see the capitol as a special place and they should aspire to serve there," said Mead.
Top elected officials are moving their offices into the facility and it will be fully operational very soon.