Minnesotans select designs for plaque honoring workers who built state capitol

By Randy Croce

University of Minnesota Labor Education Service/

Workday Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn.—After more than 100 years, the workers who built the Minnesota State Capitol, including six who were killed in its 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 memorial will be dedicated during the Capitol’s grand reopening celebration this August.

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.

The eight design judges included Petersburg, St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Executive Secretary Don Mullin, graphic designer Michelle Manke– whose great-grandfather installed copper plates on the Capitol roof in 1902 — and petition drive leader Chloe Beede. She also testified for the project to the legislature.

Other plaque design judges were 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.  The board convened the jury and is charged with the final designing, production and placement of the plaque.