DENVER, CO – Move over, George. When it comes to presidents, Barack Obama is numero uno, at least at the Colorado State Capitol.
The capitol’s famed Wall of Presidents has traditionally hung portraits of the U.S. presidents in order of their service, but now Obama’s portrait hangs before that of George Washington, even though historians would agree that Washington was the first president of the United States.
The switch happened after the portraits were moved in January from the rotunda, which is undergoing a renovation as part of the capitol dome renovation, to the first floor.
Obama’s elevation has resulted in some grumbling among legislators and staffers, at least on the Republican side, who say the placement shows a lack of respect, not to mention an inaccurate understanding of history.
“This is so wrong! And so chronologically incorrect,” said one Republican staffer.
Richard Lee, property manager of Capitol Complex, which handles the capitol’s maintenance, said the portraits were moved by a private contractor, not state employees. The contractor employs a curator to oversee the project, which included the cleaning of the portraits.
“These portraits are too valuable for us to handle,” said Lee.
He said he didn’t realize what had happened until he received calls from capitol employees. After taking a look, he agreed that there is a space next to George W. Bush, who preceded Obama, that appears large enough to accommodate the Obama portrait.
“As I understand it, they miscalculated the size of the hanging areas,” said Lee. “I think they’re going to go back and put it [the Obama portrait] where it’s supposed to be.”
The capitol dome renovation, which officially begins in the spring, is expected to take three years at a cost of $12 million. The legislature approved $4 million for the project in 2011, with private donors slated to contribute the balance. The Colorado Preservation Inc. has launched a campaign, Share in the Care Colorado, to raise funds for the project.