Construction on a new ceiling for the Assembly Chamber began in 1888. The ceiling was supposed to be made of solid oak. Instead, the contractor substituted panels made of oak and papier-mache, a cost-cutting material not authorized by the legislature. Discovery of the substitution caused much controversy. Twenty-two years later, in 1911, a horrendous fire swept through the Capitol, causing wholesale destruction to everything in its path. The flames roared wildly through both the State and Assembly libraries reducing them to ashes.
The Capitol fire then raced toward the Assembly Chamber. It was certain, if the fire engulfed the largest room in the Capitol, the entire building would be lost.
In a twist of fate, the Capitol was saved from total destruction. The progress of the fire was slowed by the papier- mache ceiling in the Assembly chamber. These controversial panels absorbed the water that was poured into the Capitol from the fire fighter's hoses.