By Anna Smith
Wyoming’s 2015 Capitol restoration was anything but ordinary.
The Capitol Rehabilitation and Restoration Oversight Group, which included the governor and members of the Legislature, hired a team to examine the history of the building, including the 1888 and 1890 plans for the oldest portion of the structure.
The plans indicated that a large chamber once was located in the center of the building’s north side. But visitors walking through the Capitol in 2015 wouldn’t have known that.
As NCSL’s Kae Warnock explains in the current issue of State Legislatures magazine, the two-story chamber still existed but had been divided horizontally by the addition of a floor in the 1970s. The new floor provided more office space, a small library and a committee room, but it also badly damaged a room that holds great historical significance for the state.
It was in the old chamber that the state constitutional convention was held in September 1889 to draft and adopt a charter that reaffirmed women’s right to vote. That privilege was first written into Wyoming Territory law in 1869, making the state the first to give women the right to vote. In fact, the Capitol was designated a national historic landmark due to the convention and the significant suffrage debates held in the chamber.
After the new floor was added in the ’70s, the chamber’s historic past was almost lost. The once-beautiful space was even overlooked in the original 2014 renovation plan. Once rediscovered, the chamber was added to the list of elements in the Capitol that would be restored, with the added costs covered by value-engineering other parts of the larger project.
Read Warnock’s story to learn about the artistry revealed during the chamber’s restoration, which gives the Capitol a new, two-story committee room with a visitor’s gallery and a reminder of the state’s place in voting history.
Anna Smith is an intern in NCSL’s Communications Division.