Repairs planned at Indiana's 1st Capitol building

CORYDON, Ind. - Officials are looking to make numerous repairs to Indiana's original state Capitol building ahead of the state's bicentennial celebrations in 2016.

Some of that work started this month in the town of Corydon as preservationists gave attention to the Constitution Elm stump, which is all that remains of the large tree under which historians say delegates debated the state's constitution in 1816.

Other work being planned around the Capitol site includes improvements to electrical and water lines and drainage, said Laura Minzes, the state's deputy director of historic sites.

Administrators from the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites agency plan to a public meeting July 30 in Corydon to outline plans for $920,000 in improvements being paid for with state and private money, The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky , reported.

The town about 20 miles west of Louisville was Indiana's capital from Dec. 11, 1816 -- when it became 19th state -- until 1825, when the seat of state government was moved to Indianapolis.

Nagging maintenance problems around the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site have caused troubles such as crews encountering electrical shorts while putting up lights around the holidays and preparing for other events.

The planned work "is going to make the square a lot more user-friendly," said Laura Van Fossen, program developer at the historic site.

Several days of preservation work on the Constitution Elm concluded Tuesday morning. The live tree stood north of the original state Capitol building, and after disease killed it in 1925, large chunks were sold as souvenirs.

Part of the trunk was placed in a sandstone shelter in 1937, and sometime in the 1960s, officials estimate, the trunk was coated with black creosote and holes were drilled and filled with more creosote to ward off insects.

The state museum contracted with Philadelphia-based Arnold Wood Conservation for $19,300 to save what remains of the stump. The company tore out concrete that had been used to fill missing spaces in the trunk, fitted wood from a 200-year-old elm log and coated the trunk with tung oil, to protect the wood and keep insects out.

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