Minnesotans select designs for plaque honoring workers who built state capitol
A welder who took part in the Minnesota Capitol restoration. | Tom Olmscheid, courtesy of Workday Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. – After more than 100 years, the workers who built the Minnesota State Capitol, including six who were killed in the construction, will be honored in the statehouse. Last month, a jury selected designs for a commemorative plaque from among more than 50 entries submitted by sixth graders across the state.

The two chosen designs, which will be used to produce the memorial, were created by Kalina Boubin of St. Mary’s School and Riley Kalbach of Willow Creek Intermediate School, both in Owatonna. The designs include a drawing of the Capitol dome and the names of those who died during its construction.

A bipartisan bill, passed by the 2016 legislature, mandated the competition to create a memorial to honor all of the workers who built and restored what is considered to be one of the most beautiful and architecturally significant statehouses in the country.

The bill was prompted by a 2014-15 petition drive and 2016 legislative committee testimony by Willow Creek intermediate School students in Jennifer Hansen’s sixth grade history class. Hansen and Cannon Falls teacher Missy Klapperich, together with the Labor Education Service, developed curriculum that inspired the students to ask why the original statehouse builders have never been publicly recognized.

The lesson plans draw on primary historical sources and a documentary video featured on the Who Built Our Capitol? website, a special project of the Labor Education Service.

The legislation authorizing the plaque was introduced by State Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, and State Senator Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, who visited the school and invited the students to testify.

Petersburg served on the eight-member jury that selected the plaque designs, as did Chloe Beede, one of the leaders of the petition drive. She also testified to the legislature. So did Graphic designer Michelle Manke, whose great-grandfather installed copper plates on the roof of the Capitol in 1902.

Other plaque design judges were St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Executive Secretary Don Mullin and Forecast Public Art founding director and artist Jack Becker.

Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board Vice President Mary Ann Buck and Architectural Advisor Bryan Carlson plus Minnesota Historical Society Capitol Site Manager Brian Pease were also voting members of the jury ,facilitated by the planning board. The board convened the jury and is charged with the final designing, production and placement of the plaque. The dedication of the memorial is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the restored Capitol grand opening celebration in August 2017.

Randy Croce is from the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service/Workday Minnesota



Randy Croce
Randy Croce

Randy Croce is on the staff of the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service. Croce has been doing documentary work since 1976, initially as a still photographer, then in video, focusing first on American Indian communities. He has been a video producer at LES since 1990, where he researches, shoots and edits various programs and teaches media and labor history classes. He is a member of IATSE Local 219 and has been active on University of Minnesota governance committees. One of his special interests has been past and current immigration. Randy's documentary about Italian immigrant stonecutters, "If Stone Could Speak," was broadcast by Twin Cities Public Television and has been screened nationally.