My first legislative term, Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell) and I, were assigned an office underneath the front steps of the main capitol building. Green and yellow substances could be seen growing on the walls of our office. The heating was supplemented by space heaters and the air was thick with a musty scent. The steps up to the capitol were a dingy-grey with water marks and cracks running through them.
The dome was blue and gold except for that one big vertical grey-black area where the gold-leaf failed to properly adhere. The busts of mythological gods and the detailed scroll work which was carved in the limestone exterior of the building, were not distinguishable and therefore often overlooked
The interior of the capitol building, although clean, felt like the home of one’s great-great aunt who lived in a far away metropolitan city and whom one visited dutifully every four years or so.
One is always welcome to come in and look at all of the dust laden artifacts laying around her home, but one never touch them. All of the pieces and paintings possessed are of value and each has historical significance.
Unfortunately, the lack of proper care has discolored the portraits and the many years of neglected polishing has resulted in layers of tarnish, turning all of these once beautiful possessions into relics.
Relics, which one glances at with disinterest while projecting the proper head nods and verbal utterances one was taught to use in polite conversation.
Most of the legislative and staff offices were readily accessible to our citizens, but the office temperatures were not conducive to long conversations. Most of the offices had climate control problems attributable to the oversize windows and their loss of sealant over the past seventy- plus years.
One office in particular stands out in my mind as being the poster-child for capitol repairs. This was a secretarial/staff office. In the winter, it was freezing cold and on occasion, one could see one’s breath as one spoke. In the summer, the afternoon sun would shine through the windows, be magnified, and turn this office space into a hot dry desert. These large temperature swings affected the office equipment as well as the employees.
It was always a cross your fingers process when a big print job or several certificates had to be prepared. These temperature swings were typical seasonal occurrences in offices that have a window.
The poster child office, located on the south side of the capitol, had large leaky windows, constant problems with its phone, computers and fax machines.
It also had water stains on the wall and ceiling from rain and melting show coming in through cracks in the roof and the windows. The seepage of water into this office was so great that an open umbrella was placed over the printer that sat on a credenza against the wall underneath a window. (No joke) The floor was stained from the rain water and although I never looked,
I feel confident that there was a bumper crop of spores and bugs raised each year behind the credenza.
Skipping ahead to today. The capitol building has been undergoing a massive restoration repair and updating program. From the top of the dome to the restaurant facility in the basement, contractors have been repairing, sealing, and updating.
While the legislature works with the capitol restoration committee to keep the capitol as historically accurate as possible, new security systems including cameras and automatically locking doors have been incorporated into the building. Most of the necessary system updating is not noticeable to the citizens who come to visit the capitol.
As a citizen of West Virginia, one should be proud of our State capitol. The exterior of the capitol building has been cleaned, the busts of the mythological gods that overlook the entrance doors to the capitol building are now easily seen and identified.
The ornate scroll work on the exterior columns is breathtaking in its beauty. The mammoth brass doors now shine and the closing mechanisms have been repaired making these huge doors operable again.
The symbolic animals and figures etched into the brass over entrance doors standout against their brushed-brass background. The steps to the capitol have been cleaned and repaired and the fountains and statues on the grounds are once again as majestic as when they were first placed there.
The interior marble now glows from the reflection of the lights and the brass on the light poles looks once again like a river of gold flowing around the base of the pole and then swirling up toward the ceiling. This swirling movement forces one’s eyes to look up at the beautiful glass chandelier that dominates and claims the capitol building as its home.
The portraits of past governors have been restored and the polished urns on the legislative floor set off the marble walls and the various etchings that are incorporated within the marble.
Although the repairs and renovations are not yet complete, I encourage everyone to come to the our capitol and experience for oneself the true beauty of our capitol. While there one should also plan to visit our recently opened $3.5 million interactive learning museum, the West Virginia Culture and History Museum, in the Culture Center.
Reminder: For those interested in applying for an internship or fellowship for the upcoming January 2010 Legislative session, applications must be in before October 31, 2009. Good Luck to all of you.
Delegate Patti E. Schoen can be reached at (304) 340-3141(capitol phone) or (304) 415-0411 (cell), or by e-mail at pschoen@mail,wvnet.edu. For more information please visit www.pattischoen.us and www.legis.state.wv.us.