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First look at W.Va. Capitol ahead of reopening

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia State Capitol is set to reopen this weekend after years of renovations.

The $15 million project started in 2016 when cracks showed the dome was in danger of collapsing. The area was immediately closed, and even more water damage was found between the inner and outer domes due to a failure in the drainage system, Department of Administration Cabinet Secretary Allan McVey said.

Scaffolding was put up inside and outside the dome, and other support walls and structures were created to prevent the dome from falling as the work was completed, McVey said. A weather cover on the outside scaffolding blocked the view of the dome for years but has been removed in recent weeks, along with the interior structure, as the project reached its completion.

The dome is now structurally sound and has been completely restored with new gold leaf, paint and tiles. The lights and statues in the rotunda were refurbished as part of the renovation, and the marble was polished.

The chandelier that has hung from the Capitol dome ceiling for decades was given a complete restoration during the project, and hung from the ceiling earlier this month.

“It was several months of cleanup because the dust, as you can imagine after all the construction that we went through in here, was several inches thick,” McVey said.

Lawmakers are now able to walk from one chamber to the other through the rotunda. Additional staircases have also been opened up between the levels. The large images of the original Capitol construction that covered the support walls in recent years will be moved to the West Virginia Culture Center as part of an exhibit on the building, McVey said.

The Lincoln Plaza along Kanawha Boulevard was also given a facelift as part of the renovation. The steps were replaced or repaired while the fountains, paving stones and flower beds were updated.

“I really believe that it is a beacon for all West Virginians,” McVey said. “Once you see our dome on the Capitol, you actually think of West Virginia. I think that’s what makes it so unique. Therefore, we owe it to our citizens to make sure this whole Capitol complex is in good condition. We now have good preventative maintenance plans in place, not only for the dome, but for all of our buildings. We feel that is the responsible thing to do for our citizens.”

The Capitol will be rededicated by Gov. Jim Justice during a West Virginia Day ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday. The public will be invited inside afterward to get their first look at the completed renovation and participate in a chandelier lighting ceremony.

“It is the people’s building, and they should feel welcome here,” McVey said. “Even with the COVID protocols in place, people still have been coming here in droves and walking around the campus.”

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