Connecticut Capitol: Senate Chamber Restoration


As it presently sits, the Senate chamber was not part of the original design. Around 1910 the state government had grown too large for all branches to fit under one roof and it became clear that architectural changes had to be made to better accommodate the growing government. Plans were made to move the Senate from its old location within the Capitol, down the hall to the space occupied by the then State Library. The final phase of reorganization involved moving the library and Supreme Court to their own buildings on Capitol Avenue. Tragically, the decorations of the old library, including the original ceiling and millwork, were demolished, leaving an underwhelming room. With little more than plain plaster walls and some wood trim, the space hailed in comparison to the elaborate decorations McPherson put on display throughout the building. The room remained unadorned until the 1980’s when John and his team were tasked with creating a new design plan to bring historically-accurate decoration to the space. This ambitious plan included designing a new ceiling, creating new stencil patterns and expanding the existing millwork.

How does one set about creating a décor scheme worthy of such an architecturally significant building? The answer came to John by observing the many patterns and colors already seen within the building. John worked diligently to borrow designs from around the Capitol to create a scheme for the ceiling that would not only look as if it had always been there, but also be historically reminiscent of McPherson’s work. The work did not stop with the ceiling. The plain walls needed to be a bit less plain, so once again John and his design team based their mockups on the motifs already within the Capitol. New stencil patterns were designed, similar to many intricate ones already located throughout the building. Colors already found within the Capitol were chosen to finish off this space. Now called the judiciary room, the old senate chamber got significant attention as well. Restoration of the many carvings and moldings, uncovering of the old stained glass windows and repairing the stencil patterns throughout the space are just some of the many time-consuming projects needed to bring back historic elements within this space.

Each space within the capitol has its own story to tell, but the close link between the current senate chamber and the judiciary room is unique. While not original work of McPherson, these spaces are testament to how meticulous attention to detail can bring about near perfect historic McPherson-esk embellishments, while adapting to modern needs and demands.