One of the state's most recognizable structures — the state Capitol — was named Wednesday as one of Oklahoma's most endangered historic places.
“It is time to act now to fix the Capitol,” Gov. Mary Fallin told members of Preservation Oklahoma Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Oklahoma's historic and cultural landmarks. “It is important that we maintain the Capitol. We can no longer let the Capitol go in disrepair and need.
“It's the face of Oklahoma,” she said. “When someone walks up to this beautiful, historic building, this is the image that we give of the state of Oklahoma.”
Fallin said she is concerned about safety issues in the nearly 100-year-old, crumbling building. Much of the electrical wiring is outdated and the plumbing system is failing. Pieces of limestone have fallen from the building's exterior and raw sewage leaks into the basement.
As many as 700 people work in the Capitol during the four-month legislative session.
Covered scaffolding has been in place since September 2011 on the southeast entrance of the Capitol to protect people from falling pieces of limestone. Those entering the building on the southeast side must use the handicapped entrance and walk under the 20-foot-long wood-covered scaffolding. Cautionary fencing also is in place along the south steps of the Capitol.
“Having the barricades and the cones outside and the yellow plastic fence is not one of my favorite sights,” Fallin said. “I hate that for our state because when people come to visit to Oklahoma they come by our Capitol and wonder what's going on.”
The precautionary steps were taken after an engineering firm found damage to the building's exterior limestone panels on the southeast and southwest sides of the building. It's expected that the damage exists throughout the building.
The Capitol was completed in 1917 and was listed as a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Next year marks the centennial of when the original cornerstone of granite was laid.
“The state Capitol is one of our most beautiful buildings in the state of Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “It's a living museum. It's the seat of our government.”
Fallin has proposed the Legislature appropriate $10 million immediately for the Capitol. She is seeking $8 million to repair the exterior of the Capitol and another $2 million to develop a plan to repair and renovate the rest of the building.