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Photos: Inside The Massachusetts State House's New Senate Chamber

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

After two years of painstaking renovations at a cost of $22.6 million, state senators this week will formally reopen their historic chamber located under the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House.

“It is almost an obligation that we owe to the residents of the commonwealth to keep our State House in good shape. It is the people’s house,” Senate President Karen Spilka told reporters before giving a tour of the renovated chamber.

“Bottom line, I think you will be blown away by how beautiful it is and how it replicates what the chamber looked like in the late 1800s,” she added.

Senate President Karen Spilka spoke about the restoration project before the media tour of the newly-restored Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Senate President Karen Spilka spoke about the restoration project before the media tour of the newly-restored Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Craftspeople labored around the clock to get the project finished on time. Beyond changes to the aesthetics of the chamber — including new paint, carpeting and furnishings — much of the work addressed structural, lighting, acoustic and HVAC deficiencies.

“On the surface, it may appear as just a cosmetic restoration, but there’s been a lot of intervention done here, a lot of reconstruction and added space,” said Christos Coios, of CBT Architects, who oversaw the project.

Architect Christos Coios points out some of the details of the Senate chamber renovation to the media. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Architect Christos Coios points out some of the details of the Senate chamber renovation to the media. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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Improvements include making all 40 desks where the senators sit wheelchair accessible. A wheelchair lift was also installed in a room behind the rostrum, making the area where the presiding officer and Senate clerk stand totally accessible.

Special acoustic material was carefully placed in the dome ceiling to cut down on echo. The antique chandelier that hangs over the chamber was totally disassembled, removed and retrofitted with energy-efficient LED bulbs that won't change the chandelier's look.

The antique chandelier that hangs in the chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The antique chandelier that hangs in the chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Poor air circulation was corrected, too, with air intakes placed behind ceiling grills, and air outflow directed through floor-level grates in the corners of the chamber.

While renovations took place, senators met in temporary quarters in Gardner Auditorium in the building’s basement.

More photos of the renovation: 

A quote by Frederick Douglass is now imprinted onto onto the south wall of the Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A quote by Frederick Douglass is now imprinted onto onto the south wall of the Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The busts of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette, among other important heroes of American history, will be joined by the bust of Frederick Douglass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The busts of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette, among other important heroes of American history, will be joined by the bust of Frederick Douglass. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The backlit stained glass “Windows Of Industry,” which sit in the third-floor hallway outside the Senate chamber, were also replaced. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The backlit stained glass “Windows Of Industry,” which sit in the third-floor hallway outside the Senate chamber, were also replaced. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The “Holy Mackerel" sits atop the chandelier and was in good shape ahead of the renovations. It only needed some cleaning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The “Holy Mackerel" sits atop the chandelier and was in good shape ahead of the renovations. It only needed some cleaning. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The banner reading, ”God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” in the eagle’s mouth, was removed and refurbished. However, the eagle posed too many problems to be removed. It was repainted on the wall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The banner reading, ”God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” in the eagle’s mouth, was removed and refurbished. However, the eagle posed too many problems to be removed. It was repainted on the wall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The newly renovated Senate chamber in the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The newly renovated Senate chamber in the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Steve Brown Twitter Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.

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Jesse Costa Twitter Photographer, Multimedia Producer
Jesse Costa is the multimedia producer for WBUR.

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