Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
In four years, the Utah state Capitol transformed from "Little Beirut" to "Planet Plywood" before finally returning to its original self.
Hundreds of construction workers have been through it all, and many of them gave their families a sneak peek at the restored statehouse on Wednesday, complete with war stories and nicknames. The 92-year-old building will open up again Friday, after four years and more than $200 million worth of renovations.
Curtis Cutshaw remembers the early days of demolition, when the Capitol was barely recognizable.
"It looked like Little Beirut when all the demolition was going on and little piles of debris were all over the place," said Cutshaw, who installed metal studs and drywall in his four years of work at the Capitol. "Now I think it's pretty nice. It's really neat to see it all finished."
With a hard hat and gritty construction T-shirt on, Cutshaw played tour guide on Wednesday, giving his family a detailed look at all of his hard work.
Craftsmen of every shape and size eagerly shared stories of the years of construction work with friends and family. Even the docents volunteers assigned to share the Capitol renovation stories stood back and let the construction workers describe just how the work was done.
Ammon Fackrell spent hours pouring concrete and carrying two-by-fours and said he couldn't wait to see the final product. The 27-year-old Salt Lake City native had been to the Capitol once as a child and said his work brought him to places no one has seen or stood in before, like the attic and the ledges outside the rotunda.
"When I first got here, it was Planet Plywood," Fackrell said. "Now I'm awestruck."
Lead painter Todd Stubbs captivated his family, a docent and several other onlookers in the governor's working office Wednesday, as he described the hours of work it took to find the original paint color, duplicate it and restore it to the condition it was originally, 92 years ago.
Stubbs did most of the delicate painting throughout the Capitol. Every minute detail took hours, from gold leafing eggs on the ceilings to peeling back years of paint with an X-acto knife to find the original color.
His work brought him high up on the scaffolding in the rotunda to scrape the paint off the fake bricks, find the original color and paint them once again. He spent time in the governor's suite, where his stamp can be seen in every room. Then he spent a year-and-a-half in the ceremonial Gold Room, applying gold leaf and glaze on most every nook and cranny.
"It was an honor and a privilege," Stubbs said.
The state Capitol is scheduled to be rededicated on Friday, and crews were busy Wednesday doing little things, placing coat racks and other furnishings throughout the building.
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert worried last month that things wouldn't be done in time, as fabric for the walls in the governor's suite and the Gold Room hadn't arrived yet. "Unless you've got a little fairy dust around here someplace there's a lot of dust around here, but no fairy dust I don't know how you can get it done," Herbert said during a December meeting of the Capitol Preservation Board.
Workers took that as a challenge and scurried to get things done. The fabric is up on the walls in both the governor's suite and Gold Room, and things should be ready to go by Friday.
"It was pretty hectic," Cutshaw said of the past few weeks, although it was worth it. "It's a showpiece for the whole state."
The Capitol has been closed to the public since August 2004 so the stately building could be retrofitted with a series of "shock absorbers" designed to withstand an earthquake. There were also cosmetic changes that included restoring rooms like the governor's office to their original grandeur, as well as modernizing everything from fire alarms to technology hook-ups.It will be open to the public for an open house Jan. 5-12. The 2008 Legislature will convene in the Capitol on Jan. 21, the first time lawmakers will have met in the building since 2004, and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. will deliver his State of the State address in the House chambers on Jan. 22, in what will be his first speech in the Capitol.
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