‘The story of your home’: Missouri auctions stones salvaged from Capitol

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On Friday morning, rocks quarried more than 100 years ago performed a final service for Missouri.

Until recently, Burlington’s dense white limestone chunks were part of the State Capitol building completed in 1917. They provided surfaces for sidewalks and stairways and formed ledges for the three fountains that drew thousands of art students looking for subjects.

There were balusters, columns and medallions of the dome.

Removed from their original purpose during recent restoration and preservation work on the Capitol building’s exterior, they were auctioned off Friday with the proceeds dedicated to the future needs of the Capitol.

The auction attracted both serious bidders and people who wanted to see, or perhaps take home, a piece of history.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Columbia’s Keke Walker. “It would be so nice to have a piece of history for your home.”

Called “Carthage marble” to the southwestern Missouri community near the quarry where it was quarried, the dense stone was prized for its durability, but the supply ran out around 1970. This made the auction one of the first chances to get usable quantities in decades.

The stones were laid out on hundreds of pallets, some stacked seven high with cobblestones weighing 100 to 250 pounds. Bids were taken by auctioneer Bill Gratz for each lot of five to seven pallets.

Buyers had two weeks to withdraw their purchases.

“I brought a van but didn’t know it would be this many in a row,” said Ronnie Bates of Eugene, a small town in Cole County.

The stone being auctioned is about 5% of the stone originally used outdoors, said Dana Rademan Miller, chief clerk of the Missouri House and member of the Missouri State Capitol Commission.

“What has happened over the years is that the elements penetrate the stone, create natural cracks and small holes, and the freeze-thaw cycle of water and air repeatedly over the seasons,” Miller said.

The sale started well, with bids of $1,000 or more for some lots. New pavers cost around $24 per square foot. The largest pavers on sale were 9 square feet.

The sale, although only a fraction of the salvaged stone is sold, was an opportunity to reuse the stones, Miller said.

“We felt very strongly that this is a big part of our history here,” Miller said. “We didn’t want to see it end up in a landfill or be used for landfill.”

Building the Capitol cost about $3 million starting in 1912, about $88.5 million today, and restoring the masonry cost about $55 million over many years.

And this year, lawmakers put a $300 million down payment on the next big project on the Capitol grounds, which includes underground staff offices and committee rooms for Missouri House.

The current Capitol building, the sixth to house the Missouri government, was built to replace the building destroyed by fire in 1911. The last major redesign of the space took place in the early 1980s, after construction of the Truman State Office Building.

For the first time, each representative of the Missouri House, which has 163 members, had their own office. But for members of the minority party and junior members of the majority, it meant a space the size of a dressing room, stacked to create a mezzanine inaccessible to disabled people.

A master plan prepared for the Capitol commission in 2019 by MOCA Systems Inc. recommends underground expansion in what would be the largest construction project on the Capitol grounds since the building itself was completed.

The plan envisions a 145,000 square foot building below ground level on the south side of the Capitol Building. It would provide space for committee hearing rooms and staff offices.

“It’s been described as we’re going to dig a hole, we’re going to build the building and put dirt back in,” said Patrick Baker, Senate Administrator and Chairman of the Capitol Committee.

There would be a skylight to let in natural light, but once the work was completed, the lawn, with its fountains and expanses of grass, would be replaced, the plan says.

“By extending underground, the plan will preserve the main staircase and lawn, grounds and monuments of the South Capitol for continued public use and inaugural ceremonies,” the report said.

Commission members will visit Austin, Texas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, where underground facilities for lawmakers have already been built, Baker said.

The entire master plan has a price tag of $521 million, with approximately $350 million for construction costs, with much of the rest for architectural work, construction supervision, and furnishings.

The project would be built in phases, with the underground expansion in the first phase to provide space to move the current offices while the remaining phases are completed. As the commission works from the master plan, it should be updated, both to recognize rising construction costs or to make adjustments in other ways, Baker said.

“It’s a living, breathing plan, definitely not finalized,” Baker said.

Other major elements of the plan include:

  • A complete basement renovation, including the removal of parking spaces used by elected officials and legislative leaders across the state. The primary use of the space would be 78 offices for Missouri House members.
  • A new parking garage to replace the 308-space Senate garage built in the 1960s. The new garage would add 250 spaces for the public as parking on the Circle Road south of the Capitol would be eliminated.
  • Restore the Capitol to “original architectural integrity” by reworking the space to allow for natural lighting, removing drop ceilings and ductwork that obscure the beauty of the building.

The $300 million appropriated by lawmakers is a deposit to the Capitol Commission fund, but the bill does not allow the money to be spent in the coming fiscal year. It does, however, show a commitment from lawmakers to the project, Miller said.

“It’s huge for us because there was consensus and effective majority agreement among the members that we needed to look inside the building,” Miller said. “We sealed the envelope of the building by carrying out this exterior project. However, there are a number of needs that we need to meet inside the building now.

With an unprecedented surplus of nearly $3 billion in the general revenue fund, the commission hopes to get the rest of the money next year, Baker said.

“It would be dishonest to say we’re going to start phase one without getting the rest of the money,” Baker said.

On the north side of the Capitol, above the portico outside the governor’s office, a frieze by Hermon MacNeil allegorically depicts the changing civilizations that used the Missouri River for transportation, Bob Priddy and Jeffrey Ball wrote in “The Art of the Missouri Capitol”. ”

On the south side, Alexander Stirling Calder’s 138-foot frieze depicts 300 years of Missouri history, as requested by the Capitol Commission, to be “an allegory of government, Missouri promising liberty and protection to her citizens and loyalty to its sister states”.

MacNeil is best known for designing the stricken Standing Liberty quarter from 1916 to 1930 and Justice, the Guardian of Liberty on the east pediment of the United States Supreme Court Building. Calder’s most acclaimed work is the figure of George Washington on the Washington Square Arch in New York and the Swann Memorial Fountain in Philadelphia.

The friezes were part of the original design, but the state was able to hire such talent to do the job because the tax levied to build the Ccapitol brought in far more than expected.

The original budget was $500,000 for site expansion, decorations and furnishings, but the voter-approved tax raised an additional $700,000 and turned the building into a living museum of the works of the most famous artists. most prominent of the time.

The frieze panels include incredible detail, in figures 7½ feet high for the north frieze and 6 feet high on the south. But their elevation makes it difficult to see these details.

It may be possible in the future to see these details up close on clay and plaster models created by artists for stonemasons. After they were no longer needed, the models, a quarter to half the size of the actual friezes, were donated to the University of Missouri.

For years they were on display at Jesse Hall, but more recently they have been stored in the former building of the Ellis Fishel State Cancer Center, now known as Mizzou North. MU has offered to return them to the state, but they must be out by June 30, Baker said.

“We had gone and looked at the friezes first, and we said, yes, we would like them,” Baker said.

MU is in the process of demolishing the building but no date has been set, spokesman Christian Basi said. The building must be gutted for demolition, he said.

“We want to move people and have them in their location on campus as quickly as possible in a reasonable, safe and detailed way,” Basi said.

The frieze models are in crates, so their overall condition is unknown, Baker said. The intention is to move them to Jefferson City and while they are in storage to prepare a space where some or all of them can be displayed, he said.

If the state didn’t take them, he said, the university would get rid of them.

“They were either going to destroy them,” he said, “the surpluses or give them away.”

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported media network and donor coalition as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence.

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