Capitol’s West Wing Renovation Nears Completion
Capitol’s West Wing Renovation Nears Completion

Because of a number of code and life-safety issues, renovations were ordered for the Illinois State Capitol.

Architect Richard Alsop says it could have been less than $50 million for the west wing, but then they couldn’t restore the building “appropriately.”

“If we didn’t spend time going back to find these patterns, or putting in these lights it would have been less expensive, but that’s really not the point of this renovation,” says Alsop. “As long as we’re going through that step of moving everybody out, and doing a renovation that’s going to last 100 years, you really should take advantage of the time that you’ve got.”

Funding for this portion of renovations came from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program.

The west mezzanine level, where the press offices used to be, is gone.

The Capitol was built 150 years ago and the West Wing is nearing completion. More renovations are coming, particularly in the north and east wings, although when those will be completed is unknown. A major component of the west wing renovation was removal of the mezzanine level that housed offices and the press room. Those levels were built in the mid 20th century to provide more office space, but it wasn’t the original design.

Among the biggest measures that’ll be noticeable to state workers: the Rathskellar cafeteria is no more. In its place are new press offices and restored brick and stone facades. Those wishing to eat at the Capitol complex will have to go to the Stratton or Howlett buildings.

The problem may come when contractors try to remove several more mezzanine levels elsewhere, where dozens of lawmakers have offices.

The goal of the renovation is to take the state capitol building back to the way it was in the mid to late 1800’s. The south wing was renovated several years ago.