Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Leaders Show off Renovated Chamber

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Leaders Show off Renovated Chamber

Article excerpt

Eight months and $1.2 million later, a lighter, brighter House of Representatives Chamber was presented to the public Wednesday at a ceremony attended by dignitaries that included more than 100 former members.

The 83-year-old chamber was gutted and rebuilt, floor to ceiling. Financing was provided by general obligation bonds voters approved in 1992.

House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, introduced the former members in order by the decades in which they served. They ranged from former House sergeant Easter Brown and former Gov. Henry Bellmon, who began their terms in 1947, to Sen. Gene Stipe, D- McAlester, (1949) to former Rep. Dan Ramsey, who first served in 1995.

Also among those in attendance were six former speakers: Clint Livingston, Rex Privett, Dan Draper, Jim Barker, Steve Lewis and Glen Johnson, who were presented with plaques. Also among the former House members are Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Secretary of State Mike Hunter and U.S. Reps. Ernest Istook and Frank Lucas.

Benson said the idea of renovating the chamber began with former Rep. Dwayne Steidley in 1992, although it did not fully take shape until 1998, when he and former House Minority Floor Leader Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, determined that a bipartisan effort was needed if the project was to be something of which everyone could be proud.

"Certainly, government is an expression of the people, and I think that this restored chamber is truly an expression that the people of Oklahoma will be proud of," Benson said.

Many of those who worked on the project, particularly University of Central Oklahoma students who painted the intricate scrollwork on the chamber ceiling and gallery walls, were volunteers. Their names are preserved in a book outlining the project's progress.

Benson said that his greatest surprise was the discovery in the attic of some of the original Victorian stained glass that once graced the ceiling. Most of one entire panel remained, and Edmond stained glass artisan Jim Triffo and eight assistants recreated the remaining five.

The glass was manufactured by the Indiana company that constructed the originals: Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. …

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