Illinois officials said Wednesday that three sets of copper-plated wooden doorways being installed at the Illinois Capitol cost the state $669,608, and that more of such doors could be installed in the years to come.
The price tag for the ornate doors, part of a $50 million renovation of the Capitol, was revealed almost two weeks after officials told reporters on a tour that the cost could not be itemized.
At a time when the state faces serious financial constraints, officials explained the cost of the doors by noting the historic nature of both the building and the doors, and that they need to last decades before having to be replaced again. They lead from the west entrance to the central rotunda.
"We must remember that these are custom doors with carvings that do not exist on a shelf at your typical home improvement store," wrote J. Richard Alsop III, the capitol architect, in an e-mail. He added that craftsmen were needed to give the doors "the desired and appropriate historic fabric."
Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said the doors are meant to bring the building as close to their original construction as possible. He stressed that the Capitol is a national historic landmark.
Alsop III told the Associated Press Wednesday that the doors cost $535,808 for materials and fabrication, $55,800 for project management and $78,000 for installation. The doors were installed in recent weeks at the Capitol's west entrance.
The project is being paid for by construction bonds that were sold by the state with the project in mind. The renovation comes at a time when state lawmakers are struggling to resolve a $100 billion unfunded public pension liability and millions in unpaid bills to schools and social service providers.
The new doors replace doors that were made of glass and metal. The original doors were composed of oak and black walnut, with bronze ornamentation, Alsop said.
The new doors are expected to last about 30 years, but officials said they will turn a dark brown in a matter of months.
In an email explaining the costs, Alsop included an exchange between himself and Frank Huschitt, president of Palatine-based Imperial Woodworking, who provided the breakdown of the doors' cost.
"The doors are stunning and that seems to be ruffling some feathers," Alsop wrote to Huschitt.
There are three other entrances to the Capitol, including the main visitors' entrance. Brown said he didn't know if a decision had been made to add similar copper-plated doors to those other entrances in the future.
"Part of it might depend on how those doors work, traffic in and out of the building," Brown said.