The sweat box that is the Rhode Island Statehouse in the summer months may become a thing of the past.
That’s because the Raimondo Administration is conducting an engineering study that includes installation of central air conditioning in the historic, century-old capitol. The state Department of Administration has hired Creative Environment Corp, of East Providence, to conduct a `statehouse management improvement project’ that would include a study of the architecture and ``design framework’’ required for replacement of the building’s existing heating system, installation of centralized air-conditioning, as well as energy efficiency, electrical, mechanical, fire protection and IT wiring upgrades, according to Raimondo spokeswoman Marie Aberger.
The current Statehouse hearing system is over 100 years old and ``is in need of rehabilitation,’’ Aberger said.
The design plans are expected to be finished by the fall of 2015, Aberger said.
The historic building, designed by the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, is in the Neoclassical style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The building is topped by one of the largest self-supporting marble domes in the world.
The largely white marble building holds heat in the summer, which has for years made the end of the General Assembly session a sweaty ordeal, somewhat akin to doing pushups in an oven.
Over the years, legislative leaders have used many strategies to use the heat and humidity of the Statehouse to quell debate near the end of the annual sessions. Former House Speaker Matthew Smith, D-Providence, used to order the fans in the House chamber turned off and flow of water and cold drinks handed out by pages halted.
Then when the hot lawmakers were hungry and thirsty, Smith would open the doors to the House Lounge behind the chamber. Waiting in the lounge for members was a huge buffet of Chinese or Italian food. When the smell of the meals wafted through the chamber, lawmakers were quick to wrap up debate and get down to voting.
Of course, in days of yore, lawmakers who tired of the endless and desultory debates on issues that had long been decided also snuck upstairs to the House leaders suites, where cold beer flowed like water and televisions were tuned to Boston Red Sox or Celtics playoff games, back in the day when the Celts were still playing in June..