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Utah celebrates 100th anniversary of laying of Capitol cornerstone

Published: Friday, April 4 2014 10:20 p.m. MDT

Former Utah Gov.Mike Leavitt, left, Gov. Gary Herbert, actor Joseph Soderborg, who is portraying former Utah Gov. William J. Spry, and Molly Molenaar cut the cake during the event highlighting the 100th anniversary of the original state Capitol cornerstone ceremony Friday, April 4, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Hugh Carey

SALT LAKE CITY — One hundred years after the state Capitol cornerstone was laid, state leaders charged Utahns to glance backward but focus on the future.

Gov. Gary Herbert was joined at Friday's centennial celebration by former Gov. Mike Leavitt, as well as an actor portraying William Spry, Utah's third governor who served during the building of the Capitol.

"You can imagine the Salt Lake Valley in 1914. It looked nothing like it does today," Leavitt said. "And to build on a hill, an edifice that would symbolize the people of Utah — their strength, their optimism, their sense of order — is something that we should not just commemorate, but we should, in fact, exemplify."

The outside of the building is constructed with the same granite used for the Salt Lake Temple. However, instead of taking 40 years to build as the temple did, the $2.6 million Capitol was built in 2 ½ years, starting when ground was broken the day after Christmas in 1912.

Richard Kletting, a German stonemason, became the architect when his design was selected out of 22 proposals, according to Capitol docent Chris Franco. Kletting's design focused on natural lighting and open spaces, while making the building as fireproof as possible.

Utah's state Capitol is the only one in the nation with an uninterrupted corridor, which is lined with 26 monolithic columns. Each column is 25,000 pounds of solid marble brought in by rail car from Georgia, Franco said.

A 1,000-pound chandelier hangs 90 feet from the rotunda dome. Artists painted the sky and clouds directly on the ceiling, as well as California gulls with 6-foot wings.

Visitors underneath the rotunda can see the feet of people walking around above through Singapore glass. Utah's Capitol is one of the first state capitols to have electricity. The floor under the rotunda is partially lit by 103 Thomas Edison lightbulbs, seen throughout the building's interior.

Also prevalent are 1/8-inch gold leaf decoration and rosettes, after the neoclassical tradition. The architecture has both Greek and Roman influences.

Herbert called the building "beautiful, ornate and large," noting that the grandiosity was controversial at the time.

The Capitol was closed in 2004 for four years to make the building earthquake-resistant and preserve the historical structure. Part of the $270 million renovation was the addition of seismic base isolation.

The system is made up of 265 base isolators that hold up the building and can move 24 inches — meaning the building would simply sway in the case of an earthquake. The Capitol, Franco said, is one of the best places to be during an earthquake.

Herbert and Leavitt encouraged Utahns to have the same "vision and courage" for tomorrow as their forefathers.

"May we commit ourselves again to the same principles of industry and order and productivity that this building exemplifies, and may it be the house of the people of Utah for yet another hundred years," Leavitt said.

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Madeleine6

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