The State of Wyoming decided to move forward by moving backward. It spent more than $100,000,000 on restoration projects, one of which was to redo its capitol building. The plan was to pretty much take it back to its original look instead of replacing it. The work began in 2016 and was completed in 2019. We decided to see what had been done by returning on the opening day of the 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days, a total western celebration that begins with a huge parade that passes the capitol building.
Ruth and I first visited the state capitol in Cheyenne, WY in late summer 2015 just before it was completely closed for this restoration. We, of course, wanted to see what had been done during the 1st renovation of this building in its 130-year history, a project that was totally successful. Historic elements were uncovered that had not been seen for decades. Decorative paint in the House and Senate was uncovered. The dome was regilded for the 7th time since 1900 using 7 ounces of pure gold. Original ceiling heights were restored exposing stencils, arched doorways, and more. The lobby was opened up by removing an elevator. That’s one of 2 grand staircases in this lobby leading up to legislative chambers and offices in the photo just above. Almost 4,000 workers were hired for this project, and I was lucky to find 4 of the proudest Wyoming residents including Special Projects Manager Wendy Madsen inside the capitol that morning to tell me about what had been done. These men and women were there to show off the capitol to whomever came in after the parade, and I was allowed the freedom to wander around taking photos and appreciating what had been accomplished.
Women like Wendy have been part of Wyoming’s history from statehood onward. This state had the first female Governor. Widowed Nellie Tayloe Ross was Governor from 1925 to 1927. After completing her husband’s term, she lost a bid for re-election; but later President Roosevelt made her director of the US Mints and she held that title until 1953. She lived to be 101. Now there are 9 female state governors. Two of Wyoming’s women have served as Speaker of the House, and Wyoming’s newly restored Supreme Court chamber was where the first state constitution giving women the right to vote was signed.
The Wyoming House chamber was also the scene of the wildest political battle in American history involving men in 1913. Just like today’s Democrats and Republicans, House members were involved in a heated debate over who would be Speaker. The shouting match became an actual brawl during which the acting Speaker physically assaulted another man and hurled him from the rostrum. A Representative pulled a framed picture off the wall and hit another Rep over the head with it. It took 45 minutes and a recess for the fight to die down.
If you ever go to Cheyenne for its famous Frontier Days, stop in to see what has been done to its traditional state capitol. Both Frontier Days and the building are worth seeing.