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Release: Feb. 14, 2001

Regents to consider exterior repairs to Old Capitol

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- At its February 22 meeting, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, will consider a proposal by the University of Iowa to repair portions of the exterior surfaces of Old Capitol, Iowa’s first capitol building and the university’s principal landmark.

"The university takes very seriously its responsibility as steward of this important Iowa asset," says Ann Smothers, director of the Old Capitol Museum, who describes the mission of Old Capitol as a blend of education and preservation. "The building is the cornerstone of the University of Iowa and represents a very important piece of our state’s history and heritage."

Using university funds, this $393,000 project will strip old paint, repair broken and rotten wood, and recoat the wooden portions of the building. The project also includes asbestos removal, repair of louvers and cupola column capitals, new liners for gutters, repair of flashing, installation of attic vents and improved column venting, and other repairs. It involves 12,000 square feet of wooden surfaces, more than 500 square feet of guttering, 1,400 linear feet of sealant, and 200 square feet of flashing. The repairs will be compatible with the original construction and follow National Park Service standards for rehabilitation.

Old Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in the mid-1970s, when it was restored and converted for use as a museum. Subsequent projects in 1981 and 1993 have maintained the building in good repair, including resurfacing the exterior, roof replacement, improvements to built-in gutters, re-gilding the dome, and masonry repairs. These projects have relied on gift moneys generated through the UI Foundation as well as University building repair funds.

Old Capitol’s cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1840. It served first as the territorial capitol until 1846, then as state capitol until 1857 when the government moved to Des Moines. In that year, the building was deeded to the university and was the UI’s first building, serving as library, chapel, armory, and classroom building. Some 40,000 people tour Old Capitol every year and many university functions are held there. The Senate Chamber is a popular site for lectures, meetings, and doctoral dissertation defenses.