This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Tourists, stranded skiers and the simply awestruck rambled through the Utah Capitol on Saturday, drinking in the majesty of the grand old building for the first time since a massive $227 million restoration began more than three years ago.
And if there was a common denominator among scores of ordinary people who braved a snowstorm and wet roads to visit the structure one day after its rededication in an invitation-only ceremony, it was physical. Hardly anyone could abstain from angling his or her face upward into the barrel of the rotunda, where murals picturing Utah's past adorned the walls and sea gulls soared in the sky-blue dome 165 feet above the main floor.
"I really like the birds up there," said Shalauna Kirk, gesturing to where a flock of California gulls, Utah's state bird, floated overhead on painted wings that stretched 4 feet from tip to tip. "I wondered if there would be a Christmas tree, and I really like those flowers," she said, pointing toward the building's east end, where the Utah Supreme Court will hear cases.
The 5-year-old Provo girl was at the Capitol with her parents and grandparents. Shalauna had seen the building shortly before Christmas, when the family was in Salt Lake City to see the holiday lights at Temple Square.
Richard Kirk said his granddaughter wanted to know whether the granite-clad, copper-domed and marble-floored edifice was where a president lived.
So the Kirk family planned a trip to show Shalauna that the Capitol was the people's building. The trip would serve a second purpose, too. Richard Kirk would get to see the Capitol for the first time since 1954, when he returned home to Utah after fighting in the Korean War.
"It's just beautiful. It's wonderful. They've done a terrific job. This will last forever," said Kirk, standing beneath a vast canopy of windows installed in the roof that illuminated the cavernous interior with unexpected natural light.
"Imagine what this place would look like if it were sunny outside," said Tee Tyler, of Salt Lake City.
"Beautiful," "wonderful" and similar superlatives were frequently spoken Saturday. Yet they seemed appropriate to the moment.
"It is just stunning," said Mike Belt, a skier from Appleton, Wis., who decided to tour the building because snow had forced a closure of the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta. "I've been to the Capitol in Madison. It's pretty, but it's not like this."
No one seemed bothered by the reconstruction and reinforcement costs. Instead of grumbling about tax money out of their pockets, most visitors saw the quarter-billion-dollar tab as a wise use of public funds that would draw Utahns closer to their government.
"The people who come in here . . . walk around with their jaws open for it seems like 10 minutes," said Jane Grau, one of numerous volunteer docents on hand to answer questions. "That's the effect the original designers wanted. They wanted them to be moved by what the building stands for and by its beauty."
The Capitol, first dedicated in 1916, follows a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque and Victorian. Will Quantz, an environmental-management student at the University of Utah, tried to commit it all to memory as he stared upward and snapped pictures with a camera.
"I was just really curious to see it," said Quantz, who moved to Salt Lake City from Oklahoma a year ago. "I've been into some other state capitols that are impressive on the outside, but when you go inside they look like a regular government building, dark and run-down."