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Art flourishes in Oklahoma state Capitol

mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: August 22, 2010
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The state Capitol is more than a government building. It also contains a treasure of art and is a popular tourist attraction.

Murals, paintings and statues depicting events and characters in Oklahoma's history are displayed throughout the building.


On the first floor, in the west gallery, various works are displayed showing a visual anthology of the history of artistic expression in the state. The complete collection consists of more than 100 works of art by Oklahoma artists.

The Capitol is a popular attraction for tourists and students, said Leslie Blair, a spokeswoman with the state Tourism and Recreation Department.

About 15,200 students toured the Capitol last year as part of school field trips, she said.

"With all the art that's in the rotunda and in the halls, it's also a big draw," Blair said. "There are also people who just visit state capitols."

The Capitol building, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd., has served as the state's seat of government for nearly 100 years.

Oklahoma City wasn't the initial capital city. Guthrie, about 30 miles to the north, was the territorial capital and tried to retain its role as the state's capital city after Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Residents in a statewide election and legislators in 1910 declared Oklahoma City the permanent state capital.

Planning for the construction of a building followed, and groundbreaking ceremonies were July 29, 1914. The building was ready for occupancy three years later when construction was completed, June 30, 1917.

The Capitol's exterior is Indiana limestone with a base of pink granite quarried from the southern Oklahoma town of Troy. Floors throughout the building are made of Alabama marble; Vermont marble is used on wall bases and stairways.

When the Capitol was completed, the final construction cost was $1.5 million, or about 21 cents per square foot. Constructing a similar building today would cost nearly $160 million, or about $350 per square foot, said John Morrison, state construction administrator for the Central Services Department's construction and properties division.

The building has about 450,000 square feet of usable floor space and contains about 650 rooms. It is nestled on 15 acres.

The original designs called for a dome to be built on the Capitol, but the United States entered World War I about two months before the building was completed. The plan was to wait until after the conflict to add the dome, but when the war ended in 1918, shortages in materials caused prices to skyrocket. The cost of constructing the dome by war's end was estimated to have been nearly the amount of the Capitol building.

In 1999, state officials, looking ahead to the state's centennial several years away, began a fundraising campaign to build a dome. A combination of private and public money was used to pay for the $20 million dome. It was dedicated on Statehood Day, Nov. 16, 2002.

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