Oklahoma Capitol crumbles with no repair money

By TIM TALLEY | October 18, 2011 | 7:16 AM EDT

In this Oct. 12, 2011 photo, seams where mortar has fallen away from the exterior walls of the state Capitol are pictured in Oklahoma City. The State Capitol has been a shrine for Oklahoma’s history and aspirations since it opened in 1917. But at what may be the worst possible time, the stately structure is showing signs of crumbling. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state Capitol has been a symbol of Oklahoma's history and aspirations since it opened in 1917.

It was built on an oilfield with dozens of working rigs that represented the state's hopes for prosperity. Its halls were lined with the portraits of famous residents, including humorist Will Rogers, Olympic champion Jim Thorpe and Soquoyah, creator of the Cherokee syllabary.

But today, the building mostly reflects Oklahoma's problems, especially its fiscal hardship.

The stately structure is beginning to crumble, and pieces of limestone are falling from slabs overhead.

State lawmakers cut funding for schools, mental health and public safety last session as they struggled with a $500 million deficit. They must now weigh the cost of restoring the state's iconic monument against the needs of programs with human impact.