State Capitol renovations revealed some surprising architectural details.
Turns out brick, arched ceilings on the ground floor were covered with false ceilings. One floor up, workers revealed original stone walls from the Capitol's opening in the 1850s. They exposed filled-in fireplaces on the side of the state House chambers, visible for the first time in decades.
Many of these historic features will be covered again to keep the building functional, but some will be restored as part of final renovation plans.
Reporters got an early tour of construction progress Monday, but the building won't reopen until the end of the year.
"The public is going to be very excited what they're going to see," said Steve Cates, the state's commissioner of General Services.
He said state officials changed renovation plans when they learned new heat and air units would cover those newly exposed, ground-floor ceilings.
"We have looked at putting (the units) in the hallway and keeping two of the ceilings so that visitors will be able to see them," Cates said.
The ceilings will remain in a conference room and a reception area on the ground floor. While other parts of the building won't be able to keep as many historic features, that doesn't mean the state will try to reproduce the original look.
"Any renovations that occur are intended to go back to the 1850s plan," said Peter Heimbach Jr., an executive director with the state's General Services department.
While under renovation, the Capitol is closed to visitors. State offices have moved to the Tennessee Tower and War Memorial Building nearby. Officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam and his staff, expect to be back in the Capitol by the first of December, and the project is meeting its $14.2 million budget.
While the renovations will include some architectural work, most of the work will be infrastructure. The Capitol is getting updated heat, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems, which Heimbach said hadn't been updated since the 1950s.
"When we got into office last year, it became apparent there were wild variations of temperatures in any office," he said.
Cates said that even if these updates weren't planned, the decision to install a new air system may have been made for them. The air system was "very, very old" and could have failed in the heat.
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