LITTLE ROCK — When Arkansas House members gather at the state Capitol on Nov. 7 for seat selection, returning members will notice that the House chamber has a new look — one that’s actually an old look.

LITTLE ROCK — When Arkansas House members gather at the state Capitol on Nov. 7 for seat selection, returning members will notice that the House chamber has a new look — one that’s actually an old look.


Over the past five months, workers have been restoring the interior of the chamber’s dome — repainting it in its original colors, removing, cleaning and reinstalling every pane of its stained-glass windows, and removing curtains and speakers that blocked members’ view of the dome.


The $1 million project, paid for with House funds, was completed just ahead of its scheduled Friday completion date and well in advance of the legislative session that begins in January.


"We’re very excited to get the members in here next week and let them see their chamber in its full glory," House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, told reporters Thursday during an open house for the news media.


The Legislature began meeting in the chamber in 1911. In 1914, clear glass in the dome was replaced with stained glass to reduce glare, and curtains were hung inside the dome to temper acoustics. In the 1940s, speakers were installed in the dome as part of the chamber’s sound system.


"You’re seeing stuff that nobody’s seen since the 1940s," said Gary Clements, lead architect for the project.


Clements said a number of improvements to the chamber’s sound system and acoustics over the years made the speakers and curtains in the dome unnecessary.


"We have sound panels on the back walls, that was installed in ‘86," Clements said. "In ‘86, the sound was coming from speakers that were wrapped at the ring at the very top. Then it stopped being used because they put speakers on the desks. So instead of it being a loud-volume sound coming from up there, echoing around this chamber, it’s now coming from a low volume in front of every desk."


Soos Stained Glass of North Little Rock restored each of the hundreds of panes of glass from the dome, while EverGreene Architectural Arts of Chicago conducted a historic paint analysis to determine how to repaint the dome in its original colors.


In recent years the dome has been painted in a two-color scheme, but EverGreene determined that originally it was painted in 19 shades — all of which have been re-created.


Clements said the project also included replacing lights in the chamber’s chandelier and elsewhere with LED lights, a change that he said does away with bright and dark areas and gives the chamber an even light throughout.


The general contractor for the project was Austin Construction of Little Rock.


The secretary of state’s office restored the dome’s exterior two years ago, which made the interior restoration possible, House spokeswoman Cecillea Pond-Mayo noted.


Clements said the chamber looked "OK" before, but now it looks "great."


"It’s an honor to be here, quite an honor," he said.