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House unveils extensive chamber renovation

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates is completely renovated for only the second time since the Capitol was dedicated in 1932, bringing fresh color and polish to original fixtures, marrying them with brand-new technology and accents, but more importantly eliminating the fire hazards of the previous electrical system. These updates and upgrades, many performed by the same vendors who did the first renovation project in 1995, were completed at a total cost of about $2.36 million.

The carpet is new, adding a navy-blue studded gold starburst pattern to the familiar shade of red. The 100 member desks are the same black walnut desks, more more than 90 years old, each with a fresh sand and stain. Their dings and scratches all varied, but nearly every desk was heavily pocked with marks left by a continual banging of the wooden armrests on distinguished, but oversized, red leather chairs with nail head trim that never quite fit underneath. The new, smaller chairs selected from among five options by a majority of House members who were present during the August 2023 extraordinary session, are a deep shade of blue similar to the carpet accents. Each chair option was presented after careful measurement to allow more comfortable movement throughout the Chamber aisles. Tall chairs at the front of the Chamber received reupholstery work. A full duct cleaning has been set off by new brass vent covers accented by a small outline of the state of West Virginia in the center, adding a point of pride to an often-unnoticed utilitarian piece. Any damaged pieces of rock crystal discovered among the 10,000 that make up the chandelier are being replaced.

The previous electrical system which had been shorting out, leaving the voting system unstable, has been upgraded. Microphones and microphone reels were replaced at each of the 100 members’ desks, and upgrades to the sound system better integrate technology that had been piecemeal added and always adjusted throughout the years. Additional high-speed internet cable connections and updated connections were added to the House Clerk’s desk and member desks. Nearly 90 miles of cable were installed throughout the entire Chamber as part of this project. The burgundy corner curtains were removed following extensive sound testing, revealing even more white polished marble. Additional acoustic panels were added to the galleries in addition to replacing the old and worn panels throughout the Chamber.

The 1995 House renovation project improved the two press tables situated in the front of the Chamber with “modesty panels” and telephone installation. The most recent renovation removed the need for media with floor privileges who use the tables to climb under them for electrical outlets. Panels with USB and electrical outlets that rise and recede from the tops of the tables have been installed, and additional outlets with hookups have been added to the rear corner of the Chamber where television cameras can plug into the House audio feed for clear recording.

The 1995 renovation required scaffolding to fill every inch of the Chamber as walls were repaired and repainted. That process was repeated this fall by the same vendor, but this time three new House members took the oath of office amid construction. When former House Speaker Chuck Chambers announced the previous restoration project, he told the public it was “being done to ensure the preservation of the magnificent and historic building of the people of West Virginia,” and current House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, has said this renovation will again serve the same purpose.

“I often talk about how everything we do in this building has the potential to affect all 1.8 million West Virginians, and I hope all West Virginians are able to take the time to come visit the people’s building and feel the pride I’m honored to experience every day when I come here to work,” Hanshaw said. “We have the most beautiful state capitol in the entire United States, and with this project we’ve been able keep our House Chamber looking its best while also improving safety, accessibility and modern-day functions.”

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