Sunday, January 06, 2008

“Welcome back to the State Capitol.”

I am thrilled to be a Capitol volunteer this week. Last night was my first shift. It was so much fun walking around and talking to all the visitors. I learned a lot about this building and was able to add some of my own knowledge from my years with the Arts Council to the fact mix. Every day at noon, there are lectures in the rotunda given by the architects, artists or other craftsmen.

My ward is actually visiting the Capitol tomorrow night for FHE. I'm still deciding if I'm going or not since I will be there every day this week.

Would you like a tour? Excellent.

My name is Laura. I will be your guide. Utah's Capitol has just undergone a $220 million renovation. This amount includes the seismic upgrades, the two new buildings to the north, art restoration, new sculpture commissions and landscaping. 510 cherry trees were planted this past fall (that's more than the D.C. Capitol) so in the spring it should be gorgeous.

First, I will take you to the Governor's Office. This is actually his “ceremonial” office. The governor sits behind this desk to sign bills and speak to the camera. His “working” office is behind that door straight ahead. The door to your left leads to an elevator that takes Gov. Huntsman directly down to his vehicle. Whether that's true or not we'll never know because neither you nor I am allowed to open that door. The frames around these doorways are really metal, painted to look like wood. However, the desk, table and bookshelf is actual wood. The furniture was carved from trees that fell as a result of the 1999 tornado that hit Capitol Hill and Memory Grove. The wood is sycamore maple and Japanese pagoda. But the paneling on the drawers is Lindon wood. Isn't that great? I would love to have a desk that was carved from something memorable like that. It sounds so much cooler than “I got this on clearance at Target.”

No, you may not sit in the Governor's chair.

You'll notice the gold wallpaper. This wallpaper is new with the renovation. It is pure silk imported from China. Please, do not touch the wallpaper. You'll also notice these light bulbs on the wall. They are replicas of the original Thomas Edison light bulb.

Let's step upstairs and across the rotunda to the House of Representatives, shall we? In the House, votes are recorded orally, but in the Senate they are written and tallied anonymously. Just tradition. I really don't know why. I'd make up a reason but someone would call me on it. Straight ahead and behind you are murals that are original to the building, but the murals to your right and to your left are new.

The mural to your right was painted by an artist in Logan. This portrays Seraph Young, a 23 year-old niece of Brigham Young, casting her ballot during municipal elections in Salt Lake City to become the first woman in the U.S. legally to vote. I think that's pretty cool.

Let's walk downstairs to the “Gold Room”. This is the State Reception room, where the Governor hosts national and international dignitaries, but people call it the Gold Room because it's so fancy. This is the most expensive room per square foot in the Capitol. There is $2 million worth of gold leafing. The style is very Rococo (ornate). The only other buildings in Salt Lake City with this style would be the Governor's Mansion and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The tapestries are Italian, the table is Russian and the mirrors are imported from France.

If you want to step out into the Rotunda again, I'll tell you about these sculptures. These niches were made originally in the Capitol for this purpose, but the State didn't commission an artist to carve sculptures for them until these past few years. Before, we just stuck random busts in there. But now you will see four very large, allegorical sculptures. Each sculpture depicts a different concept and each has a larger figure mentoring a smaller, younger one. This one is Arts and Education.

Here is a picture of a picture of my stake president taking a picture of the sculptor at work.

It is 165 feet up to the dome from the floors in the rotunda. The seagulls painted in the dome are original to the building, but over the years, artists have added more seagulls. So during the renovation they took away all the "additional" ones. There were plenty in the first place if you ask me. The largest seagull has a wingspan of 4 feet, if that helps you comprehend the size.

Well, there is much more to see. I was sad to miss the re-dedication ceremony on Friday afternoon, but I wasn't invited, so it was pretty much out of my control. Fortunately, I have more important co-workers who got tickets to attend. Because they love me, they brought me a program and snagged a little commemorative bell for me too. Thank you Jim and Lila.

Being a volunteer is already a great experience though. I got a certificate signed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate and my famous first cousin once removed, Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham.

All the volunteers and volunteer coordinators were great. They provided a break room for us with snacks and this soda fountain. You may not know this about me, but Dr. Pepper is one of my favorite drinks ever, but I don't allow myself to drink soda very often. I never order it when I'm out to eat, but if it's available for free, especially in fountain form, I'm ecstatic. However, when I dispensed myself a cup, to my shocking disappointment I couldn't taste it. That is when I knew my cold had gotten the better of me. The mucus has masked all my taste buds. I was in denial through that whole bag of tasteless Sun Chips a couple hours earlier, but now I believe it. I am officially sick. Hopefully I'll regain my senses in the next few days so I can take advantage of the sweetness of free Dr. Pepper.


ThomCarter said...

What a great opportunity. I am about to leave my office in Newark and head down to the State House in Trenton.

Since I work in politics, most times I view Capital buildings as where I do my business.

But there are times when I pause (especially during a long night of budget talks) and walk around taking in the art and the history.

You have a great job.

Johnny Metropolis said...

Here's something to add to your tour... our mutaul friend John Maxim went to three formal high school dances at the Capital between 1993 and 1996, and there is a specific pillar with which he smooched all three of his dates behind while the chaperones weren't looking. True story, I was there.

Ilene said...

Are you related to everyone in Utah?

Of COURSE they painted the metal door frames to look like wood. Just like the pioneers painted the tabernacle wood to look like oak.

I think it is all a waste of taxpayers' money.

Oh, I am so funny. I just want to get you ready for any crotchety old people coming through on your tour.

laura said...

My favorite questions/comments at the Capitol so far:

"What do you mean I can't sit in this chair? I'm a tax payer, I paid for this chair."

"Where is the baptismal font?"

Andrea said...

Laura, That was by far extreamly helpful and enjoyable! As a fellow docent they just stuck me in a room. They told me nothing and I knew nothing. I hated the question "where do you get the light bulbs?" That was one of the things again I didn't know. After reading your blog I feel more comfortable to go back on Wed.

Oh and I loved being the docent for the ward. Thanks ya'll for coming to the surpreme court room.
And I love the word docent.
And John you are a slut for sneaking kisses behind pillars.

charlotta-love said...

Where is the baptisimal font? lol

We'll Call her "Lisa" said...

did you see the dead body too- or was that not on the tour...