OKLAHOMA CITY – Old, faded red stains on the floor may seem an eyesore. The equally-aged green trim may seem unimportant. But, for Trait Thompson, it’s something very special.
“Because, it tells a story,” he said, wearing a hard hat, safety glasses and a bright yellow vest. “That green trim is the building talking to us. It’s telling us what it was like 100 years ago. So, it’s all kind of piecing together a story of what it was like when it was originally built.”
Thompson is the manager of the team that’s working to restore Oklahoma’s State Capitol.
Crews are working 10 hours a day, six days a week to get house and senate offices renovated in time for the session to start in January.
The interior work started last month, as workers stripped away asbestos and superfluous electrical wiring and discovered many of the things Thompson loves about the building.
Original marble flooring can be found below, where tiles once sat. On the first floor, painted red and green floors are free from the carpeting of recent years.
In other areas, you can see the original paneling that had been hidden by tiling. Crews even found old radiators in some offices, which were tucked inside wooden cabinets.
“I love seeing these historic corridors come back to life,” Thompson said. “That’s been my favorite thing because, now, you can envision the project and envision the building the way it was 98 years ago.”
One of Thompson’s favorite features is the third-floor hallways, which feel wide open now that extended office walls have been knocked down, exposing high, arched ceilings that had been covered up.
“It spoke to how the building had been used and abused over the years,” he said. “[The senate was] going to build back into this corridor. But, once they saw it open up and they saw the beautiful ceilings, they went back and revised their plans.”
The current plan calls for this phase to be wrapped up by mid-January. A bond provided the $120 million for the initial, three-year project. It would take another three years to complete the work, as long as the legislature gives the okay.
Thompson feels, once lawmakers see the results from the current project, they’ll have no questions about moving forward.
“You really do get a good sense of history and a sense of awe when you come into spaces like this, because they really did build this to last,” he said. “They built this to be an important part of our history, and they wanted us to be in here for hundreds of years.”
Aside from historical features, workers have also found safety hazards: dangerous piping, wiring and busted water lines.