Hundreds of public officials and construction workers gathered on the steps of the Iowa Capitol this morning to celebrate the end of the building’s restoration project. The state capitol’s gold-covered dome gleamed in the sunlight as officials honored the five hundred workers who spruced up the outside of the building for the past two decades. The project was launched in 1983, and Mark Willemssen’s been the architect in charge all those years.Willemssen says in the early ’80s, they put steel canopies over the building’s entrances because stones were falling off the building. He says when a 60-pound stone fell near the governor’s car one day, that was the last straw. Former Governor Terry Branstad launched the restoration project in 1983. Former Governor Robert Ray was among the dignitaries who spoke at today’s ceremony. Ray says the building is a symbol of our democracy, and he thinks every Iowan should have pride in it. He says it is one of the most spectacular buildings in the nation. The outside stones of the capitol were leaking so badly in the late 1970s that workers put gutters up inside the building to catch the water. The capitol rests on the tallest hill in Des Moines and is capped by a dome that’s gilded with real gold. Iowans spent about three million dollars to build the capitol in the late 1800s. It would take about three billion to do rebuild it today.
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