BY DAVID PERRYMAN
I often encourage Oklahomans to be involved in Oklahoma government. Sometimes that means traveling from your home to the Capitol at NE 23rd and Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City. Normally, the Capitol is air conditioned and brimming with artwork and artifacts representing the rich heritage of our state from pre-statehood through the 110 years of our state’s history.
This month, however, I encourage you to brave the dust and the heat to visit the historic building between now and June 30, 2017 during the celebration of the building’s first 100 years. As you know, efforts have been underway for a couple of years to refurbish and renovate the building that was officially completed on Saturday, June 30, 1917.
Visiting the Capitol when it is “not quite finished” actually is more of a tradition than an exception. Plans had been made to have the Capitol completed and an open house on that last Saturday of June, 100 years ago, but according to an article that I found on the front page of the July 1, 1917 Oklahoma City Times, the telephone system was not yet operational. Consequently, Gov. Robert L. Williams declined to move from his office in the Mercantile Building into the governor’s office for several days after the open house.
The lack of a functioning phone system did not deter state Supt. R.H. Wilson who actually moved into his new office on Friday, June 29, 1917, and it did not dampen the spirits of those citizens from across the state that attended the open house and enjoyed free range throughout their new state Capitol on the following day.
If you are planning a 2017 trip, remember not to wear a tie or jacket and be ready for a little dust and a lack of air conditioning. Try to visit the temporary hallway in the basement to view areas being constructed below ground through specially installed windows. Also, the walls in the temporary hallway contain a number of amazing statistical facts regarding the work done on the century old building. You will be surprised at the massive undertaking and the miles and miles of cabling, wiring and duct work that is being replaced.
While many paintings in the building have been placed into storage to prevent damage during the restoration process, there are still a number of murals available for viewing. Another highlight will be your opportunity to see the South Plaza lined with Oklahoma’s original state flag, which was red with a blue number 46 within a single white star. They will be flying from June 19 through June 30 in celebration of the special Centennial event.
Beginning at 1 p.m. on Monday [June 26], visitors will be allowed to view artifacts representing all facets of Oklahoma and its people in the fourth floor rotunda. The viewing will be followed by a time capsule ceremony an hour later at 2 p.m.
All citizens of Oklahoma are encouraged to visit their Capitol building during this historic period and to spend time in the visitor’s center on the first floor where they will find a guest book to sign and offer thoughts and hopes for the next 100 years. I hope to see you there.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 46 in the Oklahoma House