Massachusetts Lawmakers Eye $40M In State House Repairs

Lawmakers are hoping to spend as much as $40 million to upgrade the House and Senate chambers at the gold-domed Statehouse, which is more than two centuries old.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he's seeking up to $20 million to overhaul the 160-seat House chamber. The Senate announced a similar $20 million renovation plan Monday.

Among the issues are damaged cornices, leaning columns and pieces falling from the ceiling, Senate leaders said.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday said lawmakers have a responsibility to maintain the historic building, which is visited by thousands of tourists each year.

"I know that it's never popular to invest in public infrastructure, certainly if it's the Statehouse, but this is the oldest continuously operating legislative building in America," he said. "It's a museum."

Patrick's own office is undergoing a $9 million overhaul.

Senate leaders said they asked an architectural firm to review the problems in the 40-seat chamber before arriving at the $20 million figure. DeLeo said that he wasn't sure if the House had taken that step yet and that the $20 million request was an estimate.

The proposed spending is included in a capital bond bill, which allows the state to borrow money to pay for larger infrastructure projects.

The Statehouse is regularly trying to fend off the ravages of time and the infiltration of rain.

In 2000, the building was the subject of a $42 million renovation project, needed in part to stem water damage.

That work included repairs to the brick facade, replacement of all windows and resetting of massive granite blocks. It was one of the most expensive renovations in the building's history and the most complex since the addition of the east and west wings, completed in 1916.

The cost of those renovations dwarfed the building's original cost of $133,333.

The Statehouse's cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1795, by Gov. Sam Adams and Paul Revere. The building has been the active seat of Massachusetts government since 1798.

This article was originally published on July 29, 2014.


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