ATLANTA — Large pieces of plaster from a top floor of the state Capitol came crashing through a tile ceiling last month, smashing a computer and table in a legislative office below.
The chunks of plaster fell during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, and no one was in the office at the time. Legislative secretaries returned to work to find state Rep. Mickey Channell’s office in a shambles — gaping holes in the ceiling, smashed furniture and plaster on the floor.
A “pretty solid” computer desk was broken in half, Channell said, and a large piece of plaster fell just behind his desk. The largest chunk was probably a foot long and 6 or 8 inches wide, longtime-Capitol staffer Linda Marwede said.
“It was big, and it was heavy,” Marwede said. “And had he been sitting there, he wouldn’t have been alive.”
The plaster appears to be part of the crown molding that topped the state law library when the Capitol opened in 1889. The two-story library moved across the street in 1956, and the space was divided into extra floors to make room for new offices and meeting rooms.
After the plaster fell, the Georgia Building Authority bolted heavy mesh into office walls to catch any more plaster that falls.
“I feel good about the netting,” said Channell, R-Greensboro.
The authority will implement a more permanent solution after this year’s legislative session, when the Capitol is not so busy, GBA spokeswoman Katy Pando said.
Channell shares a fourth-floor office suite with several legislators, including state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. The netting in Peake’s office is a thick, black plastic like the authority also used several years ago when crews were restoring ceilings high above the Capitol’s main marble floors.
Pando said the plaster fell about 10 feet to the floor of Channell’s office. It was only about a foot or so above the recessed tile ceiling, she said.
This is the first time in recent decades that this has happened, and an engineer will study the problem before the GBA decides how to proceed, Pando said.
The incident isn’t just a case of lucky timing, it’s a reminder of the history at the Capitol, and the many changes it has seen over the years. The building has a lot of hidden areas, and museum exhibits spread around the Capitol tell of the building’s construction. Pictures of the library, with its towering ceiling and hanging chandeliers, are showcased on the fourth floor, not far from Channell’s office.
Said Pando: “I don’t know that many people have ever seen the beauty of that part of the Capitol.”
To contact writer Travis Fain call 361-2702.