Attorney General Curtis Hill announced today that workers — including inmates of the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) — have concluded restoration and repair work begun last year to preserve historic features of the Attorney General’s Office in the Indiana Statehouse. The project included restorative painting, refurbished woodwork, doors, doorframes and lighting. In addition to historic preservation, the project also included updated electrical wiring and furnishings, among other items.
“We respect the historic value of this space,” Attorney General Hill said. “We are committed to maintaining this space, and we are pleased that the completed restoration will provide decades of use on behalf of Hoosiers.”
This work occurred amid many other recent renovations and upgrades needed at the Indiana Statehouse and its campus. An ongoing project to repair the roofline and stairs surrounding the Statehouse was estimated to cost $1.8 million. In 2016, the state spent more than $6 million to reconfigure outdoor landscaping west of the Statehouse between the North and South Government Centers, creating the Bicentennial Plaza.
In planning the restoration of the Attorney General’s Office (SH 219), Attorney General Hill and his staff worked to contain costs as much as possible. Ultimately, the total cost of the project was approximately $335,000.
A vital cost-saving measure involved the work of approximately a dozen inmates through a program offered by the IDOC that aims to teach and supervise practical wood craftsman skills to qualifying offenders. The new heavy oak doors, for example, were crafted by inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility. In addition to saving money, the partnership played a role in the ongoing rehabilitation of offenders paying their debt to society.
“I truly appreciate the vision of IDOC Commissioner Rob Carter,” Attorney General Hill said. “He cares deeply about implementing ways for inmates to improve themselves and forge brighter futures despite past mistakes. All of society benefits when we reduce recidivism by enabling inmates to leave prison more prepared to pursue productive paths.”
Brian, an inmate from the Edinburgh Correctional Facility brought to the Statehouse to work on the project, spent hours on the office’s historic and ornate woodwork. He performed such tasks as removing old stain, sanding and re-staining.
“It gives you more experience on more job skills,” the inmate said. “This is something I had never done before. So you never know, when you’re back out in society, you might be able to use it. . . . It makes you feel better about yourself being able to get out and do something that is positive for the community.”
The current Indiana Statehouse, completed in 1888, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the building’s 100th anniversary in 1988, Gov. Robert D. Orr’s administration spearheaded an $11 million renovation throughout the entire building. The Attorney General’s Statehouse Office, however, received no attention at that time, and little since.
The condition of the office was poor when the current administration arrived in January 2017. Going back decades, the space had been “cannibalized” with historic doors and other original fixtures having been removed and not replaced. Damage to the walls and flooring was extensive, and the electrical wiring needed to be updated and repaired.
Last year, Attorney General Hill directed his staff to use resources recovered through the Consumer Settlement Fund to perform needed restoration work, repair the damage and bring SH 219 up to the standards reflected throughout the rest of the Statehouse. Throughout construction, Attorney General Hill and his staff prioritized wise stewardship of resources.
Among many obvious necessities was the updating of lighting in the office and the replacement of the original seven chandeliers that had been missing for decades. Rather than purchase new fixtures, the Attorney General’s staff found seven used chandeliers from Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria as that business vacated its former Johnson County premises.
“Although the settlement funds used for this project do not come directly from the taxpayers, we feel the same obligation to exercise frugality and wisdom in the way we utilize them,” Attorney General Hill said.
Along the way, General Hill and the staff made interesting discoveries during the restoration work – finding impressive wood and marble flooring, for example, hiding beneath layers of carpet, padding and adhesive. These historic flooring surfaces have now been restored and are now fully visible to the public.