Archives: 2015-16 Legislative Session

History of the Capitol Restoration Project (1976-1982)

The Joint Committee on Rules of the California Legislature in 1976 declared the restoration of the Capitol the State’s prime Bicentennial Project. A 1971 seismic report had concluded that the building, constructed from 1860-1874, could not survive a strong earthquake. The Committee ultimately decided to restore the original structure instead of constructing a new Capitol building.

In January of 1976 – the beginning phase of the Project – the plan was to develop the whole historic Capitol as a working space for the Legislature. It was then proposed that a few key historical rooms originally used by Constitutional Officers be set aside and re-created, with the assistance of the State Department of Parks and Recreation, as a public interpretive museum. Thus, the six-year restoration effort included a State Capitol Museum which is toured by half a million visitors each year.

The reconstruction and restoration of California’s State Capitol was an awesome task; at the time, it was the country’s largest such project for a single historical building. The Project was widely acclaimed as an outstanding and successful effort to renew and preserve a tangible reminder of California’s legislative beginnings and its turbulent growth. It is a living reminder of the arts and technology which enrich the State’s 19th century heritage.