Homecroft student helps celebrate restored Capitol
ST. PAUL -- The first major speech at the Minnesota Capitol's grand opening Friday was given by a third-grader from the Northland. "I think when people come here from different countries or states they see the Capitol building and it looks like a...
ST. PAUL - The first major speech at the Minnesota Capitol's grand opening Friday was given by a third-grader from the Northland.
"I think when people come here from different countries or states they see the Capitol building and it looks like a safe place to be and it makes them feel good about Minnesota and they hope to live here someday," Hope Anderson said in her speech.
From Homecroft Elementary just outside Duluth, she was the winner of the third- through fifth-grade Grand Opening Essay Contest. Her head barely rose above the lectern as she spoke.
The $310 million, four-year restoration was primarily finished in January when the Capitol was reopened, but the three-day grand opening was scheduled for August so finishing touches would be complete.
The event kicked off Friday morning with a Capitol blessing and ribbon-cutting. In between speeches given by dignitaries and politicians, Anderson and the two other essay competition winners spoke about their personal connection to the Capitol and the history that's made there.
"I think that one thing that might change at the Capitol in the future is there might be a woman governor. Maybe me!" Anderson said in her speech.
Longtime Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, told Anderson she'd work as her campaign manager. As a member of the Legislature for 41 years, Murphy said she remembers the "crumbling Capitol" well.
"When I got here, the women had to leave the House chamber and go to the public restroom way down the hall. The lobbyists would follow you and I thought 'this is so wrong.' The men had one right in the back," Murphy said.
After many complaints, a janitor's closet was turned into a one-stall restroom just 20 feet away, but women still had to leave the House chambers to get to it.
"Now, it's so wonderful because where the men's washroom was in the chamber, now it's women. There's three stalls and it's beautiful. It's the best thing that I show people," Murphy said. "And the men have to walk across the room and out the Republican door and down the hallway before they find their new restroom."
Access to women's restrooms was just one of many problems. Others included cracked marble, a leaky roof, insufficient plumbing, poor air quality, crammed offices for the press and limited public access.
The restoration required politicians to set politics aside and work as a united team, many speakers noted.
"Single voices became a chorus as legislators came together to see that this was done," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.
In addition to the ceremony Friday morning, the grand opening celebration - which continues through Sunday, with a full schedule at mn.gov/admin/capitol-grand-opening - also includes tours, a kid zone, music, fireworks and more.
Against a bright blue sky Friday, the Capitol's white and gold colors were a fitting backdrop for speakers to discuss the makeover, the work required to complete it and what it represents.
"The building really is a symbol," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "It's what happens inside that changes the lives of Minnesotans."