NORMAN — Nearly 100 years after beautifully ornate light fixtures were installed in the Senate Chamber, 11 of the original 20 fixtures have been discovered in attic space above the sixth floor of the Capitol.
The artifacts were discovered during the ongoing historic restoration of a large conference room on the fifth floor that had been divided into small offices decades ago.
In connection with the project, Senate Information Systems Director John Warren was moving computer cables above the fifth floor ceiling and happened to notice an opening to a long-forgotten part of the attic. That led to the discovery of the fixtures.
Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma State Historical Society, said a black-and-white photo of the chamber from 1918 helped confirm they were the original fixtures or sconces. He said the discovery was important for the historic preservation of the State Capitol, the symbol of unity for Oklahoma.
“When you think about our history, what connects the people in Cimarron County with the people of McCurtain County? What connects all of our communities together? The symbol is the State Capitol itself,” Blackburn said. “We don’t have an Alamo. We don’t have battlefields. We have the State Capitol.”
The discovery of the sconces comes just one year before the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Capitol, which was completed in 1917. Over the next several decades, numerous changes were made to the building, with little or no concern about the original architectural designs.
Hallways, conference rooms and other spaces were turned into offices. Stained glass was hidden by lower ceilings installed to conceal air conditioning ducts and other modernizations. The original sconces eventually were replaced with fluorescent lighting.
In the late 1980s, a major historic restoration project was undertaken during the administration of then-Gov. Henry Bellmon. A mini-grand staircase that had long been covered up and turned into offices was uncovered and restored to help commemorate the centennial of the Land Run of 1889. Four years later, Sen. Charles Ford led a project to restore the Senate Chamber.