OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Frank Keating and state officials from the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), and the Oklahoma Department of Central Services (DCS), recently made history as ground was broken to begin construction of the State Capitol’s “Centennial Memorial Plaza of the Oklahomans.”
The new plaza is a joint project of ODOT and DCS, and is part of the Transportation Department’s Phase III of overall improvements being made to the Capitol complex. ODOT provided $3.6 million in Federal Aid Transportation funds for the construction of the “Centennial Plaza.”
In preparation for Oklahoma’s 100th Anniversary of Statehood in 2007, the “Centennial Plaza” is one of nearly 200 projects of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission.
Paul Meyer, project architect, designed the “Centennial Plaza” more than a decade ago. He was a member of the Capitol Domers, a fund-raising organization formed in the 1980s to support efforts to build a dome and new Capitol plaza.
“It’s a dream come true for many Oklahomans,” Meyer said. “I enjoy doing preservation work such as the plaza since it combines architecture and history.
“The Plaza has looked bare and plain as the entrance to our Capitol,” explained Meyer. “When a pattern of granite is overlaid on the plaza and other enhancements are made, the entrance will become befitting of our great state’s Capitol.”
Meyer explained that although the plan for the new plaza is not the original design, it harkens back and is based upon a 5-foot module of the original design. He said the original plaza was deteriorated and replaced approximately 15 years ago.
The new plaza will feature three shades of granite. The primary color will be Oklahoma red with buff pink and black being the complimentary colors. A highlight of the plaza will be 28 rosettes of granite that have a design based on the Oklahoma State Seal. The designs will commemorate 28 events in the history of the state, beginning with 11,000 B.C., when the first Native Americans occupied the land of Oklahoma and ending with the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
The tree on the west side of the south plaza was planted around 1930 and is called the Washington Tree. Seeds from the original tree in Mount Vernon were brought to Oklahoma and planted at the State Capitol. “Great lengths are being taken by everyone involved with this project to protect this tree during construction,” stated Meyer.
An additional $1.5 million in federal and state funds will be utilized to make Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance modifications at the Capitol later this year. Expected completion date for the ADA modifications is Feb. 1, 2003.