Michigan’s Capitol Renovation

In the immediate years following the end of the Civil War — an era known as Reconstruction — a different type of construction was happening in Lansing.

On Oct. 2, 1873, officials in Lansing held a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of what would become our state’s permanent Capitol building. More than 140 years later, the Capitol is undergoing renovation to restore its iconic dome and sandstone façade.

After Michigan was admitted as the 26th state to the Union, Detroit served as our capital until 1847, when in accordance with the constitution, the state Legislature would elect a new city to serve as the state’s seat of government. In early March of that year, the governor signed the law declaring Lansing as the new capital city. Soon, a temporary structure was constructed to serve as the Capitol and a city began forming in the adjacent lands, which had been for the most part unsettled until that time.

By 1871 it was clear the 20-plus-year-old “temporary” building was no longer suitable nor befitting our state. A nationwide contest was held to select an architect for a permanent Capitol. Elijah Myers was awarded the job and responsibility of overseeing the $1.2 million project (about $23 million in today’s dollars).

Myers relocated to Michigan to the see the project through, and it opened to the public on Jan. 1, 1879. He also developed several other buildings throughout the state, and later the state capitols of Texas and Colorado. Myers remained in Michigan and died in Detroit in 1909. The caucus room in which Senate Republicans meet is named in his honor.

As one could imagine, a building of the Capitol’s age and unique construction experiences degradation from exposure, weathering and time itself. You may recall the more involved, multi-year renovation project from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, which significantly changed the interior of the building and restored parts of the exterior.

This year’s work features restoring the dome and the sandstone exterior. The dome work focuses on repainting its surface; restoring or replacing decorative metalwork; fixing loose and missing fasteners, failed sealants, extreme corrosion and rusted cast iron components; repainting exposed wood sash; and replacing numerous pieces of missing ornamental metalwork.

When it comes to the sandstone exterior, the project will grind out thousands of feet of mortar joints and install new mortar to match the sandstone’s color. The stone and its cornice bands (where the façade and the roof meet) will be thoroughly cleaned to reduce deep, old and penetrating stains; and an aluminum covering will be installed to protect sections of cornice.

For more information about our Capitol, please visit MIStateCapitol.com.

Our Capitol is a work of art, a National Historic Landmark and the home of the Michigan Legislature. It is an icon worth keeping, and I am proud to work here on behalf of the people of the 28th Senate District.