By TEDDYE SNELL
Restoration of the Cherokee Nation Capitol building, which houses the tribe’s district and supreme courts, is halfway complete – and the cupola adoring the roof was recently installed.
Cherokee Nation officials – including Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden, Supreme Court Chief Justice Darrell Dowty and Justice Angela Jones – gathered on the lawn of the historic site Tuesday to mark the progress of the project.
The building, constructed in 1869, has been occupied by all three branches of the tribe’s government. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also designated a National Landmark.
“When I was a young boy, I spent many hours on the lawn here,” said Baker. “My grandfather had a barber shop right across the street, and my grandmother told me many stories of old. My great-grandmother used to live on the hill up there, and could see the [Cherokee National Prison] and the cupola on top of the courthouse, which has been missing since 1928.”
The courthouse caught fire in 1928, and due to the economy, the cupola was never replaced when the courthouse was repaired.
“The Cherokee Nation is strong, and is getting stronger every day,” said Baker. “Today is a day I have dreamed of, to put the capitol back to its original glory, the way it looked when our ancestors were removed to Oklahoma and forgotten. The restoration is a testament to the Cherokee spirit and our tenacity.”
Baker pointed out the fact that, in Europe, 600-year-old buildings are a common occurrence.
“But without the efforts of each of you and Cherokee Nation Businesses, this building would not last 600 years,” said Baker. “I believe the work being completed now will ensure that the building will be here for our great-great-great-great-grandchildren to appreciate. I want them to be able to stand on this hallowed ground and see what their ancestors dreamed.”
According to Baker, the building is the most photographed symbol in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
French drains have been installed, preserving the building’s foundation. The project will use much of the building’s existing materials and restore the historic character of the building. Plans include roof repairs with new decking and historic-era shingles, restoration of soffits and fascia, a new gutter system. The project also calls for adding new doors and windows, and a new back porch.
The preservation of the Cherokee National has been financed in part with federal funds from the Save America’s Treasures program, which is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior.