An ode to Michigan's history, Heritage Hall at state Capitol officially opens

LANSING − Heritage Hall, the $40 million visitors center and event space at the state Capitol Building, was formally dedicated Tuesday after more than two years of construction.

A roster of officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan State Capitol Commission Chairman Gary Randall, declared the 40,000-square-foot facility finished and heralded it as a step forward for the state, and an ode to its rich history.

"The purpose of this hall, and of history, is to tell us about our past and, of course, inspire a better future," Whitmer told a crowd that packed a lobby area of the underground facility, directly beneath a skylight offering a view of the Capitol dome.

Heritage Hall had a soft opening over the summer and has been used for tours and special events. Construction began in spring 2020 and was delayed by months. Officials attributed the delay to supply shortages.

Construction work is still underway on the Capitol grounds in front of the entrance facing Ottawa Street. When that work is done, buses will be able to drop off students and tour groups, allowing visitors to avoid the frequent protest activity that occurs on the east Capitol lawn.

The new hall has a strong historical vibe, with displays about Michigan governance, and a glass-walled room where conservators can be seen restoring and preserving Civil War-era battle flags. Battle flags and a skylight from the original 1879 Capitol building are among the numerous historical artifacts on display.

The State Room is an auditorium equipped with audio-visual facilities and is large enough to accommodate committee meetings, luncheons or other events for up to 300 people.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a dedication ceremony at Heritage Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at the Capitol in Lansing.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a dedication ceremony at Heritage Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at the Capitol in Lansing.

The Capitol's tour service is housed in the new hall. Groups can access the main floor of the Capitol's west lobby via stairs or an elevator.

Randall said the hall is the culmination of work that began with the creation of the Capitol Commission more than eight years ago and continued with construction of a new geothermal central utility plant. With hundreds of thousands of school children visiting the Capitol every year, a visitor's center is a big plus, he said.

Whitmer characterized Heritage Hall as a symbol of bipartisan unity and a vehicle for students to learn the Capitol was "always seen a place for Michiganders to come, to come together and to compromise and solve problems."

Contact Ken Palmer at Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Michigan Capitol visitor center, Heritage Hall, dedicated by Whitmer