Capitol dome will soon open for tours

Route with nearly 300 steps could be open in late January

? For the first time in more than 30 years, the public will be free to go all the way to the top of the Capitol building dome.

The dome used to be open to visitors on a regular basis but was closed in the early 1970s for safety reasons.

Now the Kansas State Historical Society wants to open it again. Mary Madden, with the historical society, says the plan is to start tours sometime in late January.

“There’s a demand. People have been asking to go up in the dome, and sometimes people will come to take the tour (of the Capitol) and they remember going all the way up in the dome as children,” Madden said.

There are 296 steps from the fifth floor – the highest level the public can get to now – to the top. The tallest point of the building is more than 300 feet above the ground.

Once the tours start, visitors will be able to go all the way up and outside to see the view of downtown Topeka. The plan is to have three tour guides stationed along the route, so they don’t each have to walk up the nearly 300 steps several times a day.

For the first time since the early 1970s, the Capitol dome in Topeka will be open for tours on a regular basis. The dome used to be open to visitors but was closed because of safety reasons.

Though there hasn’t been an official tour to the top in years, some lucky visitors could still go up in the dome with special arrangements made by legislators.

Right now, however, getting there is impossible. Statehouse architect Barry Greis said the route is blocked by construction but that it should be ready to go by the time the tours are scheduled to begin.

“We’re building a new northeast elevator, and the elevator shaft happened to go through the stairwell from the fifth floor to the sixth floor, so we had to build a new stairwell across from it.

“That won’t be finished until mid January. Then we’ll be able to open the route to the dome,” Greis said.

Once they’re up and running, tours to the top will occur six times each weekday the Legislature is in session, which generally is from January to early May.

The tours are free, and reservations will be taken, or people can try to get in on a first-come, first-served basis. But because of the size of the dome, groups will be limited to 30 people. For more information call the Capitol tour center at (785) 296-3966.