Golden Glory: Colorado State Capitol Building

If you were approaching your 120th birthday, you’d be ready for a facelift, too.

Published in the 2014-2015 Colorado GuestBook. 

If you were approaching your 120th birthday, you’d be ready for a facelift, too.

The recent renovation of the Colorado State Capitol is one of the many stories behind this blazing beauty in Denver. Today it looks as good as new—a striking sight for sightseers. And after three years and $17 million, it should.  

Back in 2011 state legislators agreed that the gold dome had lost its luster. Doug Platt, a communications manager for the state, says the goal was simple: “Bring it back to its original glory with an eye toward historical correctness.” The makeover included re-gilding the 5,000-square-foot dome with 140,000 paper-thin gold leaves (weighing a total of 50 ounces).

Colorado State Capitol
Colorado State Capitol (©Steve Mohlenkamp)

Dr. Derek Everett, a history professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver who authored “The Colorado State Capitol: History, Politics, Preservation,” says the gold mining boom in the 19th century let the creators think “big and beautiful” when they chose a design. Workers first capped the dome with gold in 1908, 13 years after it opened.

“Its magnificence reflects the wealth Colorado knew in the 1880s, when it was designed and when construction began,” Everett says.

The inside is just as awe-inspiring and features a bright mixture of brilliant brass, granite, marble, oak, Colorado rose onyx, murals and stained glass. “When you stroll the halls, you get a feeling of bygone opulence. We don't build structures like it anymore,” Everett adds.

Colorado State Capitol
Interior of the Colorado State Capitol (©Steve Mohlenkamp)

Elijah Myers (1832-1909), a specialist in government buildings, served as the lead architect. He was the only architect to design the capitol buildings of three U.S. states: Michigan, Texas and of course, the Centennial State. Myers designs favored Victorian Gothic and Neo-Classical styles.

Platt has seen one of Myers’ original drawings, a cutaway that shows the intricate details of the inside of the capitol’s walls. “It gave me goosebumps,” he says. “It’s huge, about 4 feet by 5 feet. His artistry was awesome, just awesome.” 

Everett says the purpose of a capitol building is to mirror its community. “In a place like Colorado, with such diverse geographies, cultures, and environments, the needs and desires of people vary widely, and I think the capitol reflects that richness.”  

A timely bonus for today’s travelers and Coloradans is the reopening of the capitol’s observation deck at the base of the dome in October 2014, after an eight-year closure. The deck offers glorious views of the vast Front Range.