For a building dating back to the late 1700s, the State House is, well, looking its age. But a tour of the restoration project, which to this point has consisted of stripping away a century of renovations, suggests that behind the faux walls and dropped ceilings lies a spectacular old building with great bones and wonderful details. Our guide is Ray Arcario, executive director of the state’s building authority, which is overseeing the project.
“The executive State House is the second oldest continuously operated State House in the United States,” said Arcario. “It opened in 1792. Today, we’ll see some of the oldest sections of the State House, some of what remains from 1792.”
From the basement to the top floor, the State House has undergone 18 different renovations, from 1792 to the mid 1900s.
Upstairs, the Governor’s Office, or what used to be the Governor’s Office. Whose office goes where and what the rooms will be used for will be determined by the building itself, says Arcario.
“Some of the offices that you see on the sides here have been divided over the years in order to provide the sort of office space that has been needed, and we will remove nonhistoric partition walls and restore these rooms to what their original configurations would have been,” said Arcario as we walk through areas that are only slightly still recognizable.
And the early evidence suggests that some of those rooms were quite grand, including the Governor’s Office.
On the second floor is the original Supreme Court, used most recently by the communications department. There were floor to ceiling columns here once and a stately judges’ bench. Arcario says it’s the most damaged by decades of water infiltration. On the third floor, a pair of matching – and spectacular – libraries, with 30-foot ceilings, long columns, skylight and laylights.
“The skylights are currently covered with the most ingenious use of duct tape,” said Arcario, “so, over the years, as the skylights have failed, in our attempts to keep water from coming in, we’ve covered them over with aluminum tape, with duct tape, and we’ve done everything and anything we can to try to keep water from coming in, and that’s been a failing effort. The skylights have reached the point of no return.”
Looking at some of these spaces you can be transported to a time when, mostly, men walked these corridors and met in these rooms, surrounded by Victorian-era elegance, which they probably just considered the office. Two hundred thirty years and $300 million later, says Arcario, it’ll look just like that again.
“We’re trying to look out 50 years, which is really impossible when you think about that, how can you plan for 50 years? But we want to be able to make sure that the building is capable of performing for this administration and subsequent administrations,” predicted Arcario.
You can argue about the price tag, and people still do, but if this was an episode of Love it or List it, the consensus is: we love it.