The Story of Mississippi’s New Capitol: Git-R-Done

Here’s the third part of the always-exciting “Report of the State House Commission to the Legislature of Mississippi, 1902.” If you’re coming in late, pick up Part 1, in which the commission hires an architect, and Part 2, where the Commission hires a contractor and throws its weight around with the Illinois Central Railroad.


The Messrs. Wells began operations under the contract on the 1st day of January, 1901. After proceeding with the excavation of the foundation for the building, and when the proper tests were made to determine the sufficiency, it was learned that it would be necessary to go much deeper into the soil than had been anticipated, and this, too, notwithstanding the usual preliminary tests of foundations had been made by the architect before advertising for bids for the construction of the building. These preliminary tests, as is sometimes the case, proved deceptive. In the erection of such a building as the new Capitol, it is necessary after excavation is made, to test practically the resisting power of the foundation throughout the building. A great object is to secure a foundation with a uniform resisting power. This is ascertained by practical tests. It was found by these practical tests that a foundation with a uniform resisting power could not be obtained without going about twenty feet deeper in the soil, below a bed of marl which underlies the new Capitol grounds, and the Commission was under necessity to direct that the foundation should be put down much deeper than anticipated and much deeper than had been provided in the plans and specifications. The Commission was compelled to do the extra work itself in the matter of these foundations; but as a foundation beyond suspicion was regarded as an absolute necessity to the building, it did not hesitate on the subject but proceeded to have the extra foundation work done. This extra foundation work cost the sum of $30,641.09, but the Commission regards the money as well spent, since it is assured that a foundation for the building which is entirely satisfactory and all that could be desired has been obtained. This work not only cost the sum of money above mentioned, but of course occupied considerable time (three months) which, under the contract, had to be added to the period within which the Messrs. Wells, contractors, had bound themselves to complete the building. As the contract now stands with this additional time, the Messrs. Wells are under obligations to complete the building on or before the 1st day of August, 1903; but the Commission is very glad to say that it feels assured the building will be completed sooner, and believes it will be completed and ready for occupancy by the date originally fixed for its completion–the 1st day of May 1903.


The building has progressed quite satisfactorily, and the Commission is entirely satisfied with the work that has been done and the material that has been used. It feels an assurance that a fortunate selection of an architect was made, and that it was again fortunate in the selection of honest and capable contractors, and that a fortunate selection of a sub-contractor for the stone work was made by the contractors when they awarded the same to Mr. George Dugan, whose services have been most excellent and satisfactory. The Superintendent Mr. J.F. Barnes has proven efficient and worthy. The building is now so far progressed that the members of the Legislature can form, by examining it, a just conception of its outlines, and they are respectfully invited to do so. The plans and specifications are also subjected to the examination and careful scrutiny of the members of the Legislature, and the Commission trusts that many of them will avail themselves of an opportunity to study the same. Before leaving this subject it is proper to state that during the progress of the building the Commission restored several of the changes made by the architect before inviting bids a second time, and these changes have increased the sum to be paid the contractors. So that the aggregate sum to be paid them under their building contract will be increased to the sum of $872,131.09.

In respect to the matter of piping the building for water supply and for heating it, and of wiring it for lights, the Commission, having adopted plans and specifications for each of these parts of the work on the structure, invited bids from a large number of persons, firms and corporations competent to do the same, and received and opened said bids on the 5th day of December, 1901. The contract for piping the structure was, as a result of said competitive bidding (on a second competition the bids on the first having all been rejected), awarded to Frank J. Butler, of Greenville, Miss. at and for the sum of $26,577.00, and the contract for wiring the building was awarded to the Frank Adam Electric Company, of St. Louis, Mo., at and for the sum of $13,200.00, and all arrangements have been made for the execution of these parts of the work.

The Commission will call the attention of the Legislature to what it deems a matter of consequence. If the new State House is to be furnished commensurate with the excellence of the building, legislative authority will be necessary for doing so. Owing to the extraordinary and unanticipated expenditures of so large a sum of money in and about the foundation, the funds at the command of the Commission will be inadequate to furnish the building in an appropriate way. The furniture for the new Capitol cannot be procured from ordinary dealers. The truth is, the furniture for this building ought to be designed by an artist, certainly an expert in such matters, and the furniture for each room ought to be in perfect taste and harmony with the room in which it is to be used and in perfect keeping with every other piece of furniture which shall be placed therein. We suggest that the Legislature provide for the designing of the furniture for the New Capitol, and that it shall be manufactured in accordance therewith, so that when it is placed in the house it will be in keeping with the building and practically as lasting as the house itself. Our information touching the subject is that the furniture suitable for the house including light fixtures and library fittings will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $75,000, and we believe the appropriation of the necessary sum for this purpose will in the end prove an economical expenditure. And again, the grounds surrounding the building ought to be improved and the Commission trusts that the plans which the architect has furnished for the improvement of the same will be accepted. The improvements of the grounds according to that plan will cost, it is thought, somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000.

File5785 The Commission’s Secretary, Mr. L.T. Fitzhugh, Jr., who has served most excellently and efficiently has made two financial reports, as required by Section 6 of the Act under which the Commission has been operating. The last of these reports ends with the 3lst day of December, 1901, and copies of them are appended hereto and made parts thereof. These will put the Legislature in full possession of the details of all the expenditures which have been incurred.

The worthy superintendent of the building, Mr. J.F. Barnes, has made a report of the progress of the work and the materials used, a copy of which is hereto appended and made a part hereof.

The Commission has, as required by law, kept full and accurate minutes of its proceedings and all of the bonds executed and contracts entered into have been recorded as required by the statute. The minutes of the proceedings of the Commission are subject to the inspection of the members of the Legislature and they are invited to examine the same and thoroughly familiarize themselves with the Commission’s proceedings.

The architect, too, has presented a report in writing touching the building and the work that has been done thereon, together with some suggestions for improvements in the way of reinstating some of the changes which were made in order to cheapen the construction of the building and bring the same within the funds available. This report of the architect is hereto attached and made part hereof, and careful consideration thereof by the members of the Legislature is invited.

There is another matter to which we call legislative attention. It is practically certain that the new Capitol will be ready for occupancy before the next regular meeting of the Legislature and it will be necessary for the Legislature to authorize the removal of the offices, books and records of the State from the Old to the New Capitol, and to prevent confusion, to have quarters therein assigned to the various officers who are entitled to offices in the building. Since it seems almost impractical for the Legislature, before completion of the structure, to make such assignments, we suggest that it might be well for the Legislature to authorize the Commission, or the Governor, to assign the various rooms, at least temporarily to the officers entitled to rooms in the new building upon its acceptance from the builders. In conclusion, the Commission is of the opinion that the interest of the State would be advanced by the appropriation of $100,000 over and above the appropriations hereinbefore recommended to be used in improving and embellishing the building and in making it what the Commission sees, from the light of experience, is necessary, so that the new Capitol shall be commensurate with the dignity of the State, and the pride of the citizens.

Respectfully submitted

A.H. LONGINO, Chairman


This is the third in a four-part series. Want to read the whole series?

Categories: Architectural Research, Books, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Mississippi Landmarks

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