TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Nearly 150 years after construction, the Cherokee National Capitol building is undergoing masonry restoration to ensure the integrity of the building is strong for years to come.
In the coming weeks, the exterior paint will be stripped, then any damaged bricks will be replaced and mortar will be reapplied, resulting in a more authentic look to the original structure.
“Several years ago when the Capitol building was deteriorating, the funding was not available to make a long-term repair. The fix of the day back then was to paint over it, but I am proud we have engaged restoration crews to strip that paint away and reface and tuck the bricks so that 150 years from now our great, great, great-grandchildren can see the public building that Cherokees have been so proud of for that past 150 years,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We are going to protect it so it is pristine and will tell the Cherokee story for generations to come.”
The work is being performed by Builders Unlimited, which is a TERO company. The project is overseen by Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism and is slated to be completed in August.
In 2013, a replica cupola was constructed to bring the building back to its 1870s appearance. Originally, the cupola was used to aid airflow through the upper floors of the building. Over time it was also used for office space as well as a jury room before being destroyed in a 1928 fire.
Other previous restoration work includes roof repairs with new decking and historic era shingles, restoration of soffits and fascia, a gutter system, and updated doors and windows.
The Capitol was built in 1869 and occupied by all three branches of the Cherokee Nation government prior to statehood. Today, it houses the judicial branch of the government. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also designated a National Landmark.