Going Back into History

06/03/2003 |

Dusting off an old jewel

Rededicated on March 7, 2003, the William S. James Senate Office Building recently underwent a $10.4 million modernization that has restored it to the 1930s period in which it was built.

Honorable Mention: William S. James Senate Office Building, Annapolis, MD


The William S. James Senate Office Building is a new version of an old complex. In 2001-2002, the 62-year-old building was completely renovated and restored, and it is now home to 35 Maryland state senators.


The State Office Building in Annapolis, MD, was built in 1939 and housed the office of the comptroller and multiple state agencies before it was renovated in the early ’70s and became the Senate Office Building. It was the first collective office space for the Maryland Senate and provided room for all the senators, as well as four hearing rooms.

The building was once again renamed in 1974 and dedicated in honor of the then-Senate President William S. James. For 12 years, James served in this position until his retirement in 1975. He served the state of Maryland as a representative, senator, and state treasurer for a total of 43 years. The William S. James Senate Office Building was rededicated on March 7, 2003.


The William S. James Senate Office Building was modernized in order to create space for 35 Maryland senators, as well as to restore two existing ceremonial rooms. Most of the 76,465-square-foot, five-story building was gutted, with the exception of the structural walls and elevator cabs.

New space planning, HVAC, windows, decorative millwork, high-end interior finishes, and audio/visual and electrical systems were part of the reconstruction. Each floor now has a common area that includes group restrooms, a computer access station, pantries, and two conference rooms. The basement of the building is now home to a new fitness facility and the Maryland Senate Canteen.

Inside, the building was revamped. Detailed and decorative plaster was salvaged in the hallways and main lobby, and the walls were refinished for smoothness where necessary. Historical slate lobbies and hardwood flooring were restored while vaulted ceilings were preserved. Old mahogany stile and rail doors were stripped and restained; new doors were custom-made to match the building’s historical nature. The project incorporated the existing decorative convectors and used them in conjunction with a new heating system. All windows in the building were replaced with new circular windows built to match the building’s style. The circular windows required the construction of custom wood moldings and were tied in to the plaster walls.

Following code compliance, a handicap lift and new sprinkler system were installed, and the elevator machinery was replaced.

The ceremonial rooms were also restored and redecorated to resemble the 1930s period of when the building was built. Two of the rooms hold silver candelabra chandeliers from the 1930s, in addition to detailed plaster moldings. The rooms will be used to host dignitaries.

The building’s exterior was not overlooked in the project. It was maintained, cleaned, and the Maryland State seal was even repainted to revive its original colors. Repairs were made to the roof, including the replacement of the flat portion.

The project did face a few difficulties in the restoration of The William S. James Senate Office Building. The entire electrical system had to be replaced and all new plumbing risers needed to be installed. The sewer line in the basement was completely redesigned and uncovered. Also, though the perimeter walls were originally intended to be maintained, they had to be dismantled and their integrity was disturbed during the installation of the sprinkler, so new walls were constructed.

Total cost of the project: $10.4 million.

Christy Dendurent, a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, completed a short editorial internship with Buildings magazine in early 2003.

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