Minnesota State Capitol was designed by Architect Cass Gilbert. Ground was broken for the building on May 6, 1896. Open to the public in 1905, this building represents a wonderful harmony between architecture, sculpture, and the painted decoration. ”…in the old days….the architect, the painter and the sculptor were frequently one and the same man. There is no reason why they should not be so now.”(Cass Gilbert).

Located in the north wing of the basement of the Capitol building, the Cafeteria contain magnificent wall paintings. The ornamentation contains typical Ratskeller (German Beer Hall) motifs. The walls, arches, and vaulted ceiling are adorned with 32 scrolls with German mottoes and, floral and geometric decoration. These excerpts from “Minnesota Monthly” magazine, July 1999 issue, present in an abbreviated manner, the history and restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol Cafeteria: “Dan Tarnoveanu led the effort in restoring the capitol’s murals to their pre-World War I Glory… The cafeteria in the basement of the Minnesota State Capitol…is covered with murals…decorated by a team of German-American immigrants in 1905. For the past year, a crew led by architect and art conservation expert Dan Tarnoveanu has been painstakingly restoring and replicating murals in the Capitol’s Cafeteria. The originals were covered up in 1917 when anti-German sentiment ran high. Hidden for decades under thick plaster and 20 layers of paint, elaborate cartouches, eagles, a rabbit, a squirrel, and a berry-and-ivy designs are now emerging on the vaulted ceiling… For some areas, the Romanian-born Tarnoveanu is replicating original designs with stencils… To differentiate new from restored areas, the original murals are recessed about a quarter of an inch into the original mural.”

This restoration project included the Cafeteria, as well as the Grand Staircase that connects the first floor of the Capitol building to the basement.

This restoration project was comprised of two phases:


  • Uncovering the original designs and colors – removing 20 layers of paint by using chemical and mechanical methods. All designs, present on walls and vaulted ceiling, were recovered. Designing full size drawings; these drawings now belong to the Minnesota Historical Society.
  • Matching the original colors using the Munsell color system
  • Photo-documentation

A. Restoration: Seven original mural sections were restored. Restoration consisted of:

  • Cleaning
  • Filling cracks, holes, and all missing areas of the plaster support and paint
  • Consolidating the paint layers
  • Inpainting
  • Varnishing with a reversible UV protective synthetic varnish

B. Replication: The remaining painted decoration on walls and vaulted ceiling was replicated using oil colors, similar with the ones used in 1905.