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Arkansas House members had been meeting in the current chamber at the State Capitol since 1911. The desks and chairs made its way from the Old State House the night before session began.
While modifications have been made over the last 100 years, the desks that architects had designed in 1914 specifically for our chamber were never actually built.
In the last twenty years, House leadership has made a continuous effort to honor the historical integrity of this chamber. This should be a place that honors not only our forefathers, but our decendants.
An extensive restoration was completed 4 years ago to restore the stained glass dome, a water damaged ceiling, and the Chamber Chandelier. In in the last two years, construction crews have renovated our four committee rooms where the bulk of legislation begins.
The desks which were replaced, were originally installed in the 1950-1960’s. The desks were clad with black plastic laminate on all surfaces and were without any ornamentation. In 1986-1987, the desks were improved by cladding the original 1960’s desks with more traditional detailing and completely covered the plastic laminate with mahogany. The Speaker Rostrum at the front of the chamber went thru a similar evolution. In the 1980’s it had three level, but was modified to two levels. By the early 2000’s the desks were in poor condition and the plan was to replace them with something better. The desk were 40” deep and took up a lot of space, the access rows didn’t align. The surfaces were worn.
The Peckwell drawing was located in the Capitol Historian archive. The original concept was modified to accommodate all of the technology that did not existing in 1914, such as electronic voting, sound systems, and electrical power. The desk tops have been reduced to a 20” depth leaving more room between desk rows for the legislators to access the chairs plus the side aisles were aligned to make movement within the Chamber easier. The desks and rostrum is constructed of quarter sawn white oak, as specified on the original drawing and as originally installed throughout the Capitol Building. The chairs, which were last replaced in 1986, were also in poor condition and were replaced during this project.