You might think that the white marble that covers the Colorado State Capitol is the most valuable part of the building or the 200 ounces of 24K gold covering the dome. You would be wrong. The most priceless material is actually inside the Capitol… and it’s pink.
The construction of the Capitol was barely in its infancy when the unusual pink stone was found at what was then named the Beulah Red Marble Quarry and leased by David Kelly, head of the Denver Onyx and Marble Company. The stone was so unusual, it was suggested that it would make a better wainscoting material than the hardwood that the Capitol Building Commission had previously planned to use. In 1893, the Commission made the decision to use the marble.
The trip to transfer the stone from the quarry to Pueblo CO took two days. From Pueblo, the marble was freighted to Denver by rail. In 1893, $164 ($3866.15 in today’s money) bought the services of the people who were to install the marble. A crew of 10-12 men worked grueling 10 hour days for $1.50-1.75 to drill and mount the marble. That’s the equivalent of about $35.36-$41.25. It took 6 years, from 1894-1900, for the marble to be entirely installed.
The Beulah Red Marble Quarry did not last long after the completion of the Capitol Building, being shut down in 1906. The marble supplies were nearly entirely exhausted by the requirements of the Capitol, so much so that Italian stone had to be imported to serve as wainscoting in less visible parts of the building. Even today, reconstruction and renovation efforts require that imported stone be used to harmonize with the Beulah red marble.
Some sources claim that “all” of the Beulah red marble went into the Capitol Building. This is not quite true. Despite the demands of the Capitol, it seems that enough of the marble was made available for the old McClelland Library and the Pueblo County Courthouse to have fireplace trims of it. Not a few Beulah homes have some samples of the stone in trims and rockwork even today.
There have been reports of images in the stone of famous Colorado and U.S. personages. Molly Brown may be found on the West Wing archway and George Washington can be seen on the West Wing rotunda Wall. There are also more prosaic images, such as a Christmas turkey.
The Capitol Building is open to the public year-round, Monday to Friday. If you are looking for a real piece of Colorado history, take a look at the swirling rose-colored stonework that you will never see anywhere else in the world!