Monday, October 10, 2016

View from the Inside

Rare glimpse inside Capitol dome reveals surprising history lesson.

Posted By on October 10, 2016, 10:49 AM

click to enlarge Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden. - DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris
  • Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden.

From the statehouse rooftop, Rep. Brad Dee speaks of clandestine graffiti inside the dome of the Capitol building with an air of ambivalence.

click to enlarge DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris

Dee led a small media tour through scaffolds of the State Capitol on Sunday, high above the chandeliered rotunda, which is ringed by majestic murals that depict significant historical moments—Brigham Young leading Mormon pioneers into the valley and the Golden Spike completing the transcontinental railroad—for example. Art tagged to the hidden walls above is more fitting for a link of boxcars.

But while the Ogden-based Republican lawmaker stipulated he is “not a graffiti fan at all,” he admitted that the inscriptions add character to an area of the building only a select number of visitors ever get to see.

“Some of it is very artistic, by the way, and you didn’t do it with a spray can in 5 minutes,” Dee said. “Some of it is done very, very well.”

Most of the scrawlings are a simple name and date, varieties of “I was here.” The bright red lettering on an eastern wall of the dome exclaims “Long Live Nixon!!!” It’s flanked by names in the same bold font dated 1977.

It would be simple enough, he added, to cement-spray the walls, but doing so would wipe out record of the local luminaries who managed to get inside the typically locked section of the Capitol.

The tour led up steep yellow steps that hugged the outer wall of the dome. Guests were allowed on the balustered walkway that circles the dome, as well as a small balcony on the top cupola.

click to enlarge DW HARRIS
  • DW Harris

The event was organized as part of a 100-year anniversary of the dedication of the Capitol; celebrations kicked off the night before with a salvo of fireworks.

An emblem of the “Utah spirit,” the Capitol building has one of the largest domes this side of the Mississippi and was originally constructed with local labor and materials. Legend has it that state leaders scoffed at Easterners who said the project couldn’t be completed without their sophisticated knowledge. Instead, locals built a Capitol—complete with its dome extending 235 feet above the ground—made with 10,000-square-feet of copper.

“We made a few minor errors in the process,” Dee said, speaking on behalf of officials of yesteryear, “but we corrected those as soon as it started raining inside the Capitol.”

Seismic renovation was completed in 2008. Prior to remodeling, the quality of the concrete in the top parts of the dome were extremely weak.

“It was so bad you could walk up to it and start brushing it away with your fingers,” said Jerod Johnson of Reaveley Engineers and Associates.

Throughout the reconstruction, the graffiti on the walls and banisters remained. One of the oldest signatures visible, if the dates can be believed, is from 1929, stretching back almost 90 years in the past and only 13 years shy of the building’s dedication.

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