Capitol Restoration and Expansion
After nearly a century of use, the Capitol had become a building at risk. Overcrowding, haphazard remodelings and modern technological additions endangered the building and hid much of the original architecture. The Capitol did not meet basic contemporary standards for accessibility, life safety, building systems or energy efficiency.
On February 6, 1983, a fire broke out in the east wing of the Capitol. Flames spread quickly throughout the second floor. The heroic efforts of Austin fire fighters prevented the complete destruction of the Capitol. In response, the 68th Legislature created the Texas State Preservation Board to restore, preserve and maintain the Capitol, Capitol Grounds and the Old General Land Office.
Like the Capitol itself, the Goddess of Liberty had deteriorated. Experts determined the zinc statue was in too poor of a condition to remain safely in place and made a replica from aluminum. On June 14, 1986, the Mississippi National Guard used a special "Skycrane" helicopter to place the new Goddess atop the dome.
The State Preservation Board developed the Capitol's Master Plan. The Plan's goals included preserving the building's structural integrity while restoring the Capitol to its original grandeur, ensuring that the Capitol remained the functional seat of Texas government and creating a safe working environment. The Master Plan recommended building an underground structure to alleviate overcrowding.
Construction began on the four-story underground Extension connected to the Capitol and other office buildings through a series of tunnels. Workers excavated a 65-foot site by digging through the limestone using a diamond belt saw with a 10-foot blade. They hauled out about 40,000 truckloads of dirt and pulverized limestone from the site.
The Restoration identified ten historic and significant spaces. Preservationists returned the Senate Chamber, House Chamber, historic offices, library, courtrooms, the Treasurer's Business Office, Agricultural Museum and the public corridors to their 1888-1915 appearance with original or reproduction furniture as well as artwork and decorative elements.
The Capitol Restoration was completed. The project returned the Capitol to its glorious past as well as prepared it for the future. The Restoration made life safety a priority and made the building code compliant. The Capitol had new plumbing, electrical and communication systems as well as efficient environmental systems installed.