Utah Capitol Building

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This page was last updated on August 2, 2019


(Wikipedia entry for Utah State Capitol)

By July 16, 1914, about half of the exterior granite had been installed, and by the end of summer 1914 the basement, second floor, and exterior walls were nearing completion. The columns were being installed, and work was progressing on the dome, including covering it in Utah copper. The floors are made of marble from Georgia. By the time the last large block of granite was shipped in February 1915, 800 carloads had been shipped. With the building was still under construction, on February 11, 1915, the session of the Utah State Legislature was moved from the interim location in the Salt Lake City and County building, to the new capitol building. Even though the legislature was meeting in the capitol, it took more than a year to finish the remainder of the building sufficiently for the executive and judicial officers to move into the building. Work was finished and the capitol was publicly dedicated on October 9, 1916. (Salt Lake Telegram, July 16, 1914)


June 10, 1913
"Little Cottonwood Granite Selected" for the new state capitol building; as to the railroad - "Plans for early construction operations are being taken up by the Alta & Jordan Railroad company, which owns the old right-of-way from Jordan to Alta... This company, incorporated about two years ago,... "The old roadbed from Jordan to the Wasatch resort near the mouth of the canyon is still in such shape that the reconstruction would not be very costly. From Wasatch to Alta, the old rails of the gravity tram way are still intact much of the way, although now overgrown with brush. In some places, the wagon road has appropriated the right-of-way. "Midvale to Wasatch Railroad to be Completed at Once." J. G. Jacobs is to build a railroad to the granite quarries at once, the work to start in a day or two; nearly four miles is built now, and the grade for the 11 miles to Wasatch has been established. "The roadbed and right-of-way has been leased from the Denver & Rio Grande." (Salt Lake Daily Herald, June 10, 1913)

June 10, 1913
The granite for the state capitol building was to come from quarries owned by the Cottonwood Granite Company, and the Wasatch Granite Company. These two companies were not part of the recent consolidation of companies placed on contract to furnish the stone, and would not assist in the work of quarrying the stone. Instead, they would receive royalties as part of the contract. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 10, 1913)

June 30, 1913
Utah Consolidated Stone Company -- The stone company was to be organized as a consolidation of several separate stone companies. The main offices were to be at those of the Cottonwood company, and each of the affiliated companies would not lose its identity:

State Capital Building information from the Deseret News, July 18, 1981, Spectra section, upon completion of the new copper roof for dome.


Dome Reflects A Year Of Labor, Era Of Skill

Deseret News, Spectra Section, July 18, 1981

By Lillie Robertson
Deseret News staff writer

It took workmen a year to repair the damages Mother Nature inflicted on the State Capitol's copper dome in a matter of a few hours.

Standing stately and tall at the north end of State Street, 300 feet above the valley floor, the grand lady had withstood all kinds of storms for about 65 years. But the storm that struck June 30, 1980, with 70-mile-an-hour winds, left her "copper hat" slightly ruffled and damaged.

For most of the following year, she wore a temporary plastic bonnet to keep other storms from causing any inside damage. For months workmen could be seen crawling around on scaffolding high atop the building, working under the plastic cover during all kinds of weather.

Then one year later, June 30, 1981, the job was finished. A plaque signed by Gov. Scott M. Matheson was soldered onto the dome, officially ending the construction. Utah's Capitol dome is as bright and shiny as a new copper penny now, but given a little time, it will tarnish like all aging copper. And it was this aging process that made it necessary to recover the entire dome; the old copper panels could not be matched. Also, the wood roofing underneath had become rotten from age and moisture and would no longer hold nails securely.

Today's copper sheeting is different from that used in 1932 when the copper was put on the dome. At that time it was hot-rolled and softer, says Richard G. Tholen, architect for the State Building Board. Now it is cold-rolled and harder. The old copper was attached with copper-coated wire nails, but this coating soon wore off. The new panels are attached with copper nails.

Each panel of the dome was accurately measured by workmen from the Ogden sheetmetal firm doing the copper work, then cut individually so each would fit precisely when nailed into place.

Because today's harder copper is more difficult to work with than the old hot-rolled type, says Tholen, a special jig had to be made to do the breaking, or bending, of the metal.

The dome itself is concrete and steel, with wood framework attached, to which the copper is nailed. After replacing the rotten wood framing, air vents were added to the dome, explains the architect, to provide better circulation and help prevent future wood rot from moisture.

The Capitol Building stands in the center of a 40-acre site, surrounded by beautifully groomed gardens. Originally, 20 acres were donated for the building in 1888 by the Salt Lake City Fathers. The remaining 20 acres were acquired later.

The time from when the land was first donated until completion of the building spanned almost 30 years. A check received from E. H. Harriman's widow for the inheritance tax on her husband's Utah holdings (Union Pacific Railroad) was the catalyst that got the building project rolling.

The classic Corinthian-styled structure, patterned after the National Capitol, was designed by Salt Lake architect Richard K. A. Kletting. It features Utah materials, such as granite and marble, along with Georgia marble. Rectangular in shape, it is 404 feet long, 240 feet wide, 285 feet high at the tip of the dome.

Ground-breaking ceremonies took place Dec. 26, 1912; construction started April 18, 1913; most of the building was completed by July 3, 1915, but final completion (inside and out) is listed as October, 1916, at which time the building was dedicated. The cost was $2,739,529 — a shocking amount at the time. But it is mind-boggling to think of how much such a stately building would cost at today's prices!