The Old Capitol Museum completed its last major restoration in 2009. From 1961 until 2005, the Old Capitol was home to the state’s history museum.
Damage suffered from Hurricane Katrina forced the museum’s closure and led to the 2006 Legislature providing the majority of funding for the total $16 million project. Work on the site began in January 2007, and the museum opened in early 2009.
The Old Capitol prior to restoration after Hurricane Katrina
The 2009 restoration brought tremendous changes to Mississippi’s most historic landmark and museum. Keep your eye out for these new features.
- Faux-limestone façade. The Old Capitol originally had a stucco façade on its front and sides that was scored to look like limestone. The brick was left exposed on the rear of the building because it faced the Pearl River swamp. In 2008, the stucco was reapplied, returning the Old Capitol to its original mid-nineteenth-century appearance.
- Wrought iron fence. The original fence that defined the historic Capitol Green has been recreated. Landscaping will soon return the green to its nineteenth-century appearance, with no plantings next to the building.
- Historic Governor’s Office. An earlier restoration erred in creating a large and lavish governor’s office. This smaller governor’s office is truer to the period. Notice the mantle and baseboards (called mop boards), which have been grained to imitate marble as in the original.
- State Library. The state library, located in the third floor apse area from 1839-1858, has been fully restored. New bookshelves will contain many of the library’s original books. The columns in the room have also relocated closer to the bookshelves as they appear in an historic photograph.
- Senate. A gaslight reflector once again lights the Senate by directing gaslight downward. An ornate dome design with octagonal coffers and rosettes has been recreated with the help of period photographs. Mannequins of legislators surrounded by reproduction desks and chairs recreate actual debates from the past.
- Glass entrance doors to legislative chambers. Photographs show that the large entrance doors to both the House and Senate Chambers were originally part glass to allow legislators of one body to watch the actions of the other.
- New draperies, carpets, and colors. The Governor’s office and the Senate and House Chambers feature new carpets and draperies based on research and historic fabrics in the museum’s collection. Additional research and the study of historic photographs also led to many color changes in several areas in the Old Capitol.
- Interesting light fixtures in the Rotunda. The only known decorations to have filled the Rotunda niches are the early-1900s brass torchieres, which have been reproduced.
- New Staircase balusters. Photographic documentation showed that the previous (1959) balusters on the spiral staircases were inappropriate. They have been replaced with more accurate balusters.