Sunday marks 40 years since the Old Capitol was restored
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Sunday marks 40 years since the Florida Historic Capitol was restored and reopened as a museum.
It dates back to 1845, but in the 1970′s, after the new Capitol was built, it was on the verge of being demolished.
“It came this close to being destroyed,” said Christie Koontz.
Koontz is known as “The Woman Who Saved The Old Capitol.”
She was a campaign worker for former Secretary of State Bruce Smathers, when he ran for governor in 1978.
Saving the building was a centerpiece of his campaign.
“Bruce called me into his office, and with a letter opener, anointed me and said, ‘You are now the chairman of the Save the Old Capitol [Committee].’”
Koontz and Smathers worked together, making calls and writing letters, urging Floridians to stand up to protect the old Capitol.
“There were those with the new cabinet who wanted to tear it down and put a fountain here,” Smathers said. “And we said, historically, this is too important.”
Koontz organized a rally in March of 1978, bringing Floridians from across the state to the Capitol to express their support of saving it.
“There were like 1,500 people outside coming through the door,” Koontz said.
That event helped convince legislators not to demolish the building.
In 1982, it was restored to look like it did back in 1902 and was opened as a museum.
“There’s no other building even coming close to this in the state of Florida,” Smathers said. “And if you believe that you have a proud history, then you want to preserve it. This is a building that should be preserved.”
Smathers said he would like to see the Capitol tours go virtual so that students across the state can get an up-close look at this piece of history.
The museum is open for self-guided tours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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