Wednesday’s meeting of the state Capitol Building Commission was notable for what was not on the agenda: There was no discussion of removing a statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson from the Capitol grounds, or removing a bust of Jackson from the Capitol rotunda.
Afterward, Randall Reid-Smith, who as curator of the Department of Arts, Culture and History serves as chairman of the commission, said there were no requests for the commission to consider removal of either the statue or bust.
“Nothing was brought up about any of that,” he said.
Under state law, the commission must approve any substantive physical changes to the buildings or grounds of the Capitol Complex. That includes placement and removal of statuary and monuments at the Capitol complex.
In 2019, the Legislature enhanced the organization’s powers, with legislation requiring commission approval of any contracts or work orders in excess of $40,000. That followed controversy over $3.7 million of renovations to offices of state Supreme Court justices, renovations that took place without seeking authorization from the commission.
The commission did take action on three agenda items Wednesday.
It approved preliminary plans to revise the Capitol complex hardscape. Proposed changes include:
- Narrowing the east-west corridor north of the Capitol, where Washington Street formerly cut through the Capitol Complex, reducing its width from 26 feet to 16 feet, and replacing brick pavers with reinforced concrete with brick edging
- Narrowing the north fountain circle walkway, originally used for parking when it was accessible from Washington Street, also from 26 feet to 16 feet.
- Enhancing green space north of the east-west corridor, to bring it more in line with Cass Gilbert’s original designs for the Capitol grounds.
That includes changing the odd sidewalk pattern installed after Washington Street was closed in 1988. Done under the administration of Gov. Arch Moore, the sidewalks were ostensibly designed to form a “WV” when viewed from the Capitol, although they resemble “AM” when viewed from Building 3.
The plan also calls for reducing the size of the stage north of the east-west corridor, and replacing the paved viewing area with a lawn.
- Enhancing the California Street entrance to the Capitol grounds and adding a limestone and granite retaining wall similar to the walls on Greenbrier Street.
Commissioner David Marshall, a Charleston architect, lauded the design, which he said will significantly increase green space on the Capitol grounds.
“It incorporates a lot of things I think are needed,” he said.
Commissioners Wednesday also approved plans for exterior renovations to the Governor’s Mansion, including replacing broken roof slates and repairing damage to wood columns.
However, the commission rejected a proposal by the General Services Division to streamline the removal of diseased or damaged trees on the Capitol grounds, without requiring the commission’s approval.
“I don’t feel comfortable giving you carte blanche to take trees down whenever you want,” Reid-Smith said. However, he said the commission will revisit the proposal when it next meets in October.
Commissioners did approve the removal of four dead or storm-damaged trees on the grounds.