Construction of the Old Capitol began in 1839. The Greek revival building served as the first capitol of the Iowa Territory and the State of Iowa. In the 1840's the State's capitol was moved to Des Moines, and it became the first structure of the University of Iowa.

OPN Architects, Inc., in partnership with Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, were selected to lead a third comprehensive restoration of the Old Capitol. A November 2001 fire that destroyed the dome, cupola, bell tower, and caused extensive damage to the interior was the catalyst for this restoration project. The project reconstructed and repaired the fire damaged items, but also provided an extensive list of improvements such as; a historically-appropriate lead-coated copper roof, automatic sprinkler system, life-safety code upgrades, permanent and changing exhibit space, and improved interior and exterior lighting. The project was completed in phases.