By Hannah Shields
Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange 

State seeks updated historic landmark designation for Capitol

 

October 19, 2023



CHEYENNE — When Gov. John Allen Campbell signed an act granting women’s suffrage in 1869, Wyoming became the first state in the country to give women the right to vote. The room where the act was signed, known as the Historic Supreme Court Room, resides within the Wyoming State Capitol and is open to the public.

The state’s historic contribution to women’s suffrage earned the Wyoming State Capitol a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, before it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Only 3% of registered properties on the NRHP earn recognition as historic landmarks, according to the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.

As of 2017, Wyoming was one of 35 states to have its capitol recognized as a National Historic Landmark, which is a federal list of historic properties with outstanding historical significance.

The Capitol has undergone several reconstruction projects since its nomination, including major renovation projects in the late 1970s and from 2014-19. Physical changes to the building’s infrastructure, plus newly added information to the 19th Amendment, required an update for the Wyoming Capitol’s NHL nomination with the National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Committee.

“The update is essentially twofold,” said Sara Sheen, SHPO deputy director and state historic preservation officer. “It consists of new information since the recent renovations to the Capitol, and (the) scholarly work done to better understand the suffrage movement in this country and how our Capitol is important to that.”

SHPO and Capitol Square Project representatives have worked with the NHL since 2020 to update the nomination. National Park Service staff advised state officials to include letters of support from historic building owners to share as “powerful” anecdotes before the NHL Committee.

Representatives from SHPO, who already submitted their own letter of support, asked the State Building Commission during its Wednesday meeting to also draft a letter, which is due by Oct. 23. The letters will be submitted as part of the Capitol’s nomination presentation, which is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Nov. 16 before the committee board.

Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Beadles said the letters of support should discuss the significant history of the nominated property and its historical impact at either the local or national level.

“The advisory committee for the National Historic Landmark generally wants to see information that’s very focused on that context,” Beadles said.

Recognition of the Capitol as a historic landmark holds potential benefits, such as financial assistance to purchase materials for the civic and learning centers. The WayFinding Subcommittee is currently working to reshape the visitor experience at the Capitol with updated kiosks that promote interactive learning, added signage to rooms and corridors and a new “Dome Drone” video that offers a virtual tour of the Capitol’s Dome.

“The historical significance adds to the visitor experience as visitors can stand in the very spot where the debates took place and the Wyoming Constitution was signed,” the SPHO wrote in a memo to the commission. “Very few other states offer that type of access to historical spaces.”

The goal of both the SPHO and the WayFinding Subcommittee is to enhance visitors’ access to the Wyoming State Capitol and its historical significance.

Gov. Mark Gordon, who chairs the commission, said he was happy to work with SHPO on drafting a letter, and Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, showed great interest in drafting a letter as a legislator.

“It’s extremely important to the Legislature to be accurate and supportive of this,” Driskill said. “If we could have you get together with our staff, get something drafted up that’s appropriate, I would be very appreciative.”

This story was published on October 14, 2023.

 
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