Annex renovation nearing completion
July 19, 2005
After decades of neglect, the century old Capitol Annex is in the midst of a complete facelift.
State workers watched with alarm this spring as crews demolished the interior of the octagonal sandstone structure. Inside the walls, they found – among other things – a stack of newspapers so old the big story on page 1 was the sinking of the Titanic.
But before crews took saws and hammers to the interior, architect Robbie Oxoby, of Gardnerville, and his staff made sure all those details were carefully recorded.
Now, as Central Sierra Construction crews rebuild the interior, they’re using that information to recreate the moldings and other architectural elements just the way they were when the Annex was new in 1905.
“Some of the stuff obviously you can’t keep because it’s beyond repair but we tried to keep, restore and use as much as possible.” said Project Manager Craig DeFriez of the Public Works Board.
The annex was originally the home of the Nevada State Library. State Historical Curator Bob Nylen said the library outgrew its assigned space in the Capitol itself, forcing officials to store several thousand books in the dome.
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“There was some concern about the weight of the books in the dome and what they would do to the structure of the Capitol,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Samuel Platt of Carson City authored the bill providing $40,000 for the project. The Annex was constructed by Burke Brothers of Reno and, according to Nylen, was a disappointment to some Carson City residents who wanted “a little more grandiose building.”
DeFriez said the driving factor behind the restoration was the need to make the stone building earthquake safe. Engineers have worried for years that a good quake would bring the Annex down. They had the same concern about the Capitol itself, but that was renovated in 1977-78 at a cost of $6 million. The Annex, to the dismay of many, wasn’t included in that project.
The first thing contractors did for the Annex was install numerous ties connecting the floors to the walls and bracing the stone block walls themselves. That part of the work cost about $300,000.
“It should keep it sturdy and in good shape for the next 100 years,” DeFriez said.
Now, with the October deadline for completing the $2 million restoration approaching, crews are installing molding carefully crafted to match the original designs on both the main floor and upstairs. Tuesday, Sharon Mistak of Oxoby’s office and Karen Pecorilla met with Oxoby, DeFriez and job supervisor Bill Park to finalize color schemes inside the building. Mistak said the idea is to replicate the original colors as closely as possible. She said the green, for example, was copied from the eight wrought iron columns supporting the dome on the second floor.
Downstairs, a crew from Verdi Electric was busy installing new electrical wiring. DeFriez said that is accompanied by new water, sewer and heating-cooling systems.
Oxoby said those new systems, including fire sprinklers, required some modifications to the second-floor ceiling to make room but that he tried his best to keep the architectural and historical integrity of the building.
He also did the design work for renovations of the old Ormsby County Courthouse and the Paul Laxalt State Building – the former federal courthouse now home to tourism.
The library outgrew the Annex by the mid-1930s, forcing the Legislature to fund construction of a combined Supreme Court Building and Library across Carson Street from the Capitol in 1937. After that, the Annex was home to agencies including the Department of Education, State Archives, Nevada Magazine and, most recently, the Controller’s staff.
When completed in October, members of the governor’s staff, will move into six spacious offices on the first floor.
The second floor will be turned into a media center allowing the executive branch to hold teleconferenced meetings with agencies in Southern Nevada as well as providing a formal space for press conferences by state officials including the governor.
Gov. Kenny Guinn’s press secretary Greg Bortolin said some of the money for that part of the project was made available through a Homeland Security grant.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.
Contractor: Burke Brothers Construction of Reno
Building size: About 4,900 square feet on the first and second floors