Famed architect Cass Gilbert used marble at the West Virginia Capitol building for the same reason the ancient Greeks used it at the Parthenon. They wanted durable, polished floors that would retain their shine with minimum upkeep.
The Capitol's marble has lost some its luster, however.
Steve Canterbury, administrator for the state Supreme Court, says years of waxing the floors have dulled the marble's sheen. The marble underneath is fine, but the wax becomes scuffed and scratched almost as soon as workers buff it.
"It makes it look awful," he said, looking at the floors outside the Supreme Court's chambers. "All these scratches, that's all in the wax."
The Greeks, Canterbury said, cleaned their floors with mild detergents and were able to keep their temples and theaters shining bright.
"They didn't have linoleum wax," he said. "This could have the same glean."
Canterbury is also a member of the Capitol Building Commission, a board set up under the states Division of Culture and History, charged with overseeing any changes to the state Capitol grounds.
He would like to see the state strip the wax from the Capitol floors and have them re-polished. He figures it would save money in the long run, since workers would not have to constantly wax and rebuff the floors. The finish also would last longer.
"Once you do this, it's done for 30, 40 years," he said.
The state Supreme Court recently had the wax scraped from the marble floors in the court clerk's office.
The floors were repolished and are now treated with a mild soap whenever they need cleaning. Just outside the door, the floors are still covered in wax. The difference between the surfaces is almost astounding.
Anna Tatman, president of the Rosa Mosaic and Tile Co. in Louisville, Ky., agreed.
"Marble doesn't need to be waxed," she said. "Unfortunately people think they're doing something protective when they wax the floors."
The wax doesn't harm the floors. It just doesn't allow marble to show off its celebrated shine.