Secrets Of The Oklahoma Capitol Dome

Thursday, February 7th 2019, 11:41 pm
By: Clayton Cummins

For more than 100 years, the Capitol building has been the epicenter for change in our state. The building is no stranger to innovation either. If it’s walls could talk, it’d have quite a bit to say.  

Unlike many Capitol buildings, Oklahoma's originally had no dome.

World War I had done a number not just on the overall economy, but materials as well. Construction on the Capitol building started in 1914 and ended in 1917.

“The dome at that time would of cost about $250,000, which was a pretty hefty sum in 1917,” said Trait Thompson, State Capitol Project Manager with Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES). “So, they said were going to let the dome go and come back a few years later and put it on.”

A couple of years turned into a couple of decades.

It wasn’t until former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating took matters into his own hands by using private dollars to pay for the dome. A dome that came with a $20 million price tag.

“I thought, ‘God this is an ugly building. It looks like a Bulgarian veteran’s hospital,’” said Keating. “Now it’s a very attended place to visit, it’s a big deal. When I was young legislator no one would walk into the place.”

Keating says the momentum for fundraising first began in Tulsa and then caught on in Oklahoma City.

Construction on the dome was completed in 2002.

“It’s just a great structure built almost exclusively by Oklahoma craftsman, artists and contractors,” said Keating.

Keating says when the Native American statue was hoisted to the top of the dome, it was so heavy the crane had bumped the dome.

The names of the biggest donors are centered around the base of the dome inside.

The 200 ft. climb to the top of the dome is quite a journey. It has now been closed to the public.

From walkways, spiral staircases, even steep ladders, you’re surrounded by history.

"So, this building is not a steel frame infrastructure, it’s concrete," said Thompson.

Two walkways exist inside the dome, one at the base and another at the very top. Before making it outside, years’ worth of signatures surrounds you from senators to everyday people. 

“Up here, you can really see the history center, governor’s mansion, you've got the judicial building,” said Thompson. “The Jim Thorpe building and even the transportation building.”

The Capitol Restoration Project continues, incorporating a 21st century building into the shell of history. Construction is scheduled to wrap up in 2022.

The project brings big expectations for the future.

“We've come a long way in a little over 100 years,” said Thompson. “When you look back at how our state started, which is a bunch of tents and an open field, now we have a thriving city in Oklahoma City. We have a thriving state.”