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Visit the Washington State Capitol

Building Projects

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Past Projects

  • 2017 – The West Campus Historic Buildings Exterior Repairs project included repair and preservation work on the O’Brien, Cherberg, Legislative, Temple of Justice, Insurance and Pritchard buildings. Project work included a condition assessment, preservation plan, and design and construction for repairs to the buildings.
  • May, 2017 –  A chronic leak was repaired at the building's roof-level mechanical equipment room. This repair addressed existing weatherization issues with the mechanical room's exterior walls. Learn more about steps Enterprise Services is taking to address water leaks in state-owned buildings.
  • 1961 – Major renovation and remodeling. Changes were principally in office and storage space partitions, and mechanical and electrical upgrades.
  • 1982 – Major remodeling, substantially altering perimeter and core spaces on all floors of the building, and a security center was added at the east entrance.
  • 1983 – Basement remodel, demolition of second floor removing hollow clay tile partition walls. New mechanical and electrical systems. Corridor received new wall-mounted electric fixtures. Restrooms renovated.
  • 1985 – Replaced all original marble windowsills. Replaced all sinks, mirrors and dispensers in restrooms.
  • 2002 – Repairs after 2001 earthquake. Reset and repair to cracked marble panels.
  • 2007 - Major Renovation – Updated HVAC, plumbing, asbestos abatement, fire suppression, and electrical.

Building History

The John L. O'Brien is one of six government buildings envisioned in the 1911 Capitol Master Plan. Construction began in 1938 and was completed in 1940. While built with reinforced concrete, the exterior walls feature broad expanses of unadorned sandstone. Pediment porticoes accent the north and west facades helping to align with the architectural design of the Capitol Group. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June of 1979. It is the architectural companion to the Cherberg Building, with a public plaza located between them and the Legislative Building, following the original Capitol Campus Plan by Wilder and White.

Designed by architect Joseph Wohleb and originally called the "Transportation Building," this 100,700 square foot building is four-stories with a full daylight basement. It exhibits a bold Neo-Classical Revival composition with strong interior Art Deco design influences. The building was constructed with funding from the federal Project Works Administration and originally housed the state Highways Department and other agencies. In 1962, interiors were remodeled, occupancy changed and it was renamed the "Public Health Building." It was significantly remodeled a second time in 1970, to serve as offices for the House of Representatives. It was renamed in 1989 in honor of John L. O'Brien, speaker of the House from 1955 to 1963, longer than anyone else in state history.

A nearly $50 million rehabilitation of the building was completed in 2014. The multi-phase project overhauled the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, corrected life-safety code deficiencies, strengthened seismic resistance and realigned offices to improve space use of the upper three floors.

The upgrades and improvements were discreetly woven into the fabric of the 73-year-old building in ways that avoided or minimized impacts to historic walls or finishes.