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Oregon Capitol Re-Opens After 16-Month Pandemic Closure

Chris Lehman

With little fanfare, the Oregon state Capitol re-opened to the public Monday after a 16-month closure due to the pandemic.


The building was closed in March, 2020, as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While lawmakers and some staff members were allowed inside, Oregonians had to watch legislative activity via a live-stream, including the entire 2021 regular session.


It also meant for more than a year, no tourists, school children, or holiday-season choirs were allowed inside.


In the first few hours after the door opened Monday, there was only a trickle of visitors, some of whom were there to attend the swearing-in of a new state representative.


Public outreach coordinator Stacey Nalley thinks the slow start is in part because the building is undergoing a massive renovation unrelated to the pandemic.

“There’s fencing all around the front of the Capitol building, so it looks like it's closed. But we’re not," she said. "Please come and visit us.” 

The State Street entrances to the building are closed, as well as the front steps leading to the main entrance on Court Street. The only doors available to the public are to either side of the main front doors on Court Street.

Credit Chris Lehman / KLCC
A construction fence blocks access to the front steps. A smaller entrance on either side of the fence is available for visitors.

Some parts of the building remain off-limits due to the construction, but the rotunda, art exhibits and legislative chambers are accessible. Guided tours will be offered twice daily, with self-guided tours available whenever the building is open.


The construction project, which will offer seismic upgrades and more accessibility, also means the popular "tower tours," which take guests up a long flight of stairs inside the rotunda onto the roof of the building, will not be offered this summer.

The cafe in the Capitol basement remains closed, but the gift shop is open. 

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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