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Restoration and Expansion
Photo of scaffolding erected over exterior of the Capitol during restoration Photo of workmen installing encaustic tile at east entrance of Capitol Photo of workman on scaffolding restoring north wing of Capitol
Capitol exterior undergoes full restoration Workmen lay encaustic tile at the east Capitol entrance Renovation of the Capitol's north wing

A fire that came dangerously close to destroying the Capitol in 1983 led to the creation of the State Preservation Board. Its mission, to "preserve, maintain and restore the Capitol, the General Land Office Building, and their contents and grounds," resulted in the development of a Master Plan for the restoration of the Capitol. The purpose of the Texas Capitol Preservation and Extension Project, which grew out of the Master Plan's recommendations, was to restore the Capitol as closely as possible to its original design while creating a safer, more efficient center of government.

In 1990, work began on the Capitol Extension, an underground building designed to provide the Capitol with much needed additional space without sacrificing its historical integrity. This monumental project which involved digging a 65-foot-deep site out of solid rock, provided the Capitol with approximately 667,000 additional gross square feet and was completed in 1993.

In 1991, work began on the exterior restoration of the Capitol. Scaffolding was erected over the entire building and repairs were made to the metal dome and roof, granite, mortar and architectural detailing. The entire exterior of the building was stabilized. This work was completed in 1994.

Restoration of the interior focused on returning the Capitol to its pre-1915 condition. All non-original architectural elements such as walls and lowered ceilings were removed, and the building was restored to its turn-of-the-century appearance. Entirely new plumbing, electrical and communication systems also were installed during this phase of the restoration which lasted from 1992 to 1995.

The Master Plan identified several Significant Spaces within the Capitol for their historical and architectural importance to the building. Through the use of historical documentation, these areas were returned to their historical appearance.

The restoration of the Capitol Grounds began with the installation of new infrastructure, including fire protection systems, water-conserving irrigation, and handicap-accessible walkways. The historic Great Walk and Oval Walk were reconstructed to their original configurations, and more than 180 trees and hundreds of native plants were installed to replace those lost to old age and disease. Original cast-iron pole lighting was restored and new tree-mounted lighting was installed to provide increased nighttime security. And finally, the custom iron fencing and gates were removed, reconditioned, and reinstalled.

The General Land Office Building, which was completed in 1858 and restored from 1990 to 1992, became the Capitol Visitors Center in 1994. It offers the public a variety of exhibits on Texas History and the Capitol, theaters, free maps, travel information and a gift shop.