Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects' co-founder accepts Governor Tom Wolf’s appointment to Capitol Preservation.
When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office offered Frank Dittenhafer an appointment to the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, the honor came as a surprise to the co-founder of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects.
“The call I got came totally out of the blue,” he says. “It didn’t take me long to say 'yes.'”
The CPC consists of a select group of 15 members. It includes state senators, representatives, and other governmental directors, along with three governor-appointed private citizens. After an opening recently became available, the Governor, First Lady Frances Wolf and others recommended Dittenhafer.
“This group,” says Dittenhafer, “is essentially charged with the preservation and restoration of the entire Pennsylvania State Capitol complex; the Capitol building, its associated buildings, the art, and hundreds of historical components.”
Just another kid from Pennsylvania
Dittenhafer grew up in York County – in Dover, and just about every year, his elementary school field trip was to the State Capitol and Gettysburg.
“It was almost to the point where, as a kid, I could hardly stand it,” Dittenhafer jokes.
As he grew up and became more involved in the field of architecture and historic preservation, he began to see the Capitol building with a fresh set of eyes.
“I came to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of it,” he says. “I haven’t been to all the state capitals, but I would say Pennsylvania’s Capitol is easily one of the most magnificent in the country.”
Preserving heritage for future generations
The committee was created by the General Assembly in 1982, under Act 327. Its mission is to implement and direct programs that will conserve and restore the PA State Capitol and its contents.
While committee members serve gratis, funding of restoration projects comes through the state budget and a Capitol Restoration Trust Fund, which includes private contributions and sales of commemorative items.
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Dittenhafer is intrigued by the prospects of what his time serving on the committee will bring.
“I obviously have a love for preservation and for history,” he says, “and what this is, is a treasure trove of architecture, art, and craft that you’ll rarely see anywhere.”
Excellence is in the detail
The Capitol is filled with elements of history, from the beautifully detailed Violet Oakley murals to the grandeur of the main entrance doors at each of the buildings, some designed by well-known Swedish sculptor, Carl Milles.
“You can probably spend a half an hour just studying aspects ofthese incredible sets of bronze doors,” Dittenhafer says.
Dittenhafer believes the amount of detail in the Capitol building is astounding. In fact, he’s been known to walk through the capitol complex looking down at his feet.
“The Mercer Moravian tile floors are amazing,” he says, “almost like petrographs: hundreds of these little images of Pennsylvania industries, and animals, and topical elements.”
On his appointment to the committee, Dittenhafer says he is excited to be part of the group responsible for preserving, and restoring, and highlighting all these things.
“It’s an honor,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to it.”