U.S. Capitols – One

Before launching our eight road trips across the United States, we agreed to visit the capitols because most are magnificent buildings that stand proudly in the center of the state they govern. Please enjoy your photographic tour.

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1 Alabama State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery opened in 1851. It was Alabama’s fifth capitol and was built in the Greek Revival style on Goat Hill. It was on this front portico where Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederate States in 1861 and where Martin Luther King staged a protest 105 years later. In the foreground is “Duty Called,” a bronze memorial statue by Branko Medenica that honors fallen police officers. Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819.

600 Dexter Ave, Montgomery, AL 36131
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2 Alabama State Capitol Staircase in Montgomery, Alabama

This is one of two cantilevered spiral staircases in the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. They were built by a former slave named Horace King who, as a famous bridge builder, used similar cantilever techniques when designing these floating stairs. He went on to become a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1868 to 1872.

600 Dexter Ave, Montgomery, AL 36131
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3 Alaska State Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska

This art deco capitol, with its Doric marble columns and limestone portico, was called the Federal and Territorial Building when it was built in 1931 and before Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959. Juneau has the distinction of being the only U.S. capital city that can’t be reached by a road – only by boat or plane – despite having the second largest land mass in the country.

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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4 Alaska State Capitol House of Representatives Chamber in Juneau, Alaska

Only 40 members of the Alaska House of Representatives sit in this chamber which makes it the smallest state house body in the country despite their governing the largest land mass at over a half million square miles. That’s larger than 22 of the smallest states combined earning its slogan of “The Last Frontier.”

120 4th St, Juneau, AK 99801
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5 Arizona State Capitol Building in Phoenix, Arizona

The Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix opened in 1901 and became a museum in 1977. At the peak of its copper dome is an adornment resembling the Greek goddess Nike from the headless statue called the Winged Victory of Samothrace from the second century B.C. The legislative branches are located in adjacent buildings. Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912.

1700 W Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007
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6 Arizona State Capitol Rotunda From Third Floor in Phoenix, Arizona

The circular rotunda of the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix is decorated with red, white and blue banners and plunges past a chandelier and four levels to the mosaic state seal on the first floor. Surrounding it are exhibits explaining the history of the territory, state and politics.

1700 W Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007
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7 Arkansas State Capital Building in Little Rock, Arkansas

The Arkansas State Capital in Little Rock was built on the site of a state penitentiary and opened in 1915 after 16 years of construction. Local limestone was used for the Neoclassical style building that resembles the US Capitol. The dome rises 213 feet and is topped by a lantern-style, 24-karat gold leaf cupola. The state’s most famous governor was William Clinton. Arkansas became the 25th state on June 15, 1836.

500 Woodlane St, Little Rock, AR 72201
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8 Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Little Rock, Arkansas

Arkansas State Capitol’s centerpiece is a 12 foot wide, ornamental chandelier in the marble rotunda dome. It hangs down 75 feet, consists of 2,000 parts, weighs two tons and was built by the Mitchell-Vance Company of New York.

500 Woodlane St, Little Rock, AR 72201
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9 California State Capitol Building Composite in Sacramento, California

Two photos of Sacramento, California are The western entrance to California’s State Capitol built in 1874, and The interior rotunda and dome which are 128 feet tall and covered with Victorian and Renaissance decorative designs and murals, sixteen surrounding windows and an oculi or circular window at the apex.

1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814
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10 California State Capitol Building in Sacramento, California

The California State Capitol in Sacramento opened in 1874 after 14 years of construction. The western façade resembles the US Capitol and was constructed with two granites. The portico has seven arches at the base and eight, 30 foot fluted Corinthian columns that each weigh 11 ½ tons. Flanking the statue of Minerva, who was the Roman goddess of wisdom, are others that represent mining, industry, justice and education. The dome is 210 feet. The final cost was 25 times over budget and the pressure sent its primary architect into a mental institution. California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850.

1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814
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11 Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, Colorado

The impressive ribbed dome of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver is plated with 200 ounces of gold in honor of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush from 1858 – 1861. Denver’s nickname as the Mile High City is commemorated by three markers on the 1894 capitol’s steps because the first two measurements of 5,280 feet were incorrect. Colorado became the 38th state on August 1, 1876.

200 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203
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12 Colorado State Capitol Building Rotunda in Denver, Colorado

Colorado State Capitol Building Rotunda in Denver, Colorado
Two types of marble grace the walls and floors of the impressive Colorado State Capitol in Denver. They are a rare Rose Onyx and Yule Marble. It took six years to install. When construction was done in 1894, the world’s supply of the Beulah Red Marble was depleted. The rotunda resembles a courtyard with the column-supported balconies and plenty of brass and stained glass. There is also a portrait of each U.S. president around the building.

200 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203
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13 Connecticut State Capitol Building in Hartford, Connecticut

The façade of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, which opened in 1878, is a masterful display of arches, columns and medallions carved into granite and marble that mixes French, classical, and middle eastern design elements. It has 16 statues of famous citizens from “The Constitution State” dating from before the Revolutionary War through the first female governor who died in 1981. There are eight pedestals available for future statues. The dome tower is 257 feet. Connecticut became the 5th state on January 9, 1788.

210 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106
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14 Connecticut State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Hartford, Connecticut

The rotunda of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford is adorned by colorful stenciling and stained glass that becomes vibrant when the sun shines through the dome. At the base is an eight-pointed star, a motif also seen in the dome’s stone, wood and chandelier. Next to that is a winged woman holding a wreath. The original was an 18 foot bronze statue called “The Genius of Connecticut.” It sat atop the dome until it was melted down for ammunition during WWII. The ghost of William Buckingham, a former governor, is rumored to inhabit room 324.

210 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106
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15 Delaware Old State House and Supreme Court in Dover, Delaware

Delaware’s current politicians are located in the Legislative Hall, but the Old State House is a historically charming reflection of 142 years of government. Opened in 1791, this Georgian-style structure is part of Dover’s Historic Green, which includes the old Supreme Court and nearly 80 buildings from the 18th century. Delaware became the first state on December 7, 1787, by ratifying the new US Constitution in a tavern called The Golden Fleece, which hosted all of Delaware’s Assembly meetings until the State House was built. The tavern claims to have an unpaid bar bill from politicians of that era.

25 The Green, Dover, DE 19901
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16 Delaware Old State House The House Chamber in Dover, Delaware

Delaware’s Old State House interior has been restored to a colonial appearance with a sweeping, geometrical staircase and wooden floors that creak as you walk through history. On top of the period furniture in the House Chamber are candles and quill pens. Above the wood stove is a painting by Thomas Sully of Commodore Jacob Jones, a military hero during the War of 1812.

25 The Green, Dover, DE 19901
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17 Delaware State Capitol Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware

Delaware’s 21 Senators and 411 Representatives meet and office in the Legislative Hall which is part of the Capitol Square Complex in Dover. It opened in 1933 and was expanded in 1970 and 1994. Its brick, colonial style is appropriate given the city’s history. In 1681, King Charles II gave William Penn land in the new world. A year later, he established his Quaker government in Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia, and Delaware. He was an early advocate of a union among the colonies. However, it took over 100 years before the brave assembly in Dover was the first to ratify the US Constitution and thus become the first state.

411 Legislative Ave, Dover, DE 19901
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18 Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee, Florida

Although inhabited since 12,000 BC, Florida’s recorded history began in 1513 with the arrival of Ponce de León. It had periods of Spanish and British rule before becoming a US territory in 1822, the 27th state on March 3, 1845, and a Confederate State between 1861 and 1868. These are among the historical events told inside the Historic Capitol. It was built in 1845 and expanded twice in 1902 and 1923 before becoming a 21 room museum in 1982. Its pristine white columns and Victorian architecture plus red and white awnings stand across a courtyard from the 22 story Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee.

400 S Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399
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Florida State Capitol Building and Seminole Family Statues Composite in Tallahassee, Florida

Two photos of Tallahassee, Florida, are Bronze statues called “Seminole Family” by Bradley Cooley near the R.A. Gray Building, and The 25 story Florida State Capitol built in 1977 as seen from beneath the columned entry of the Old Capitol across a courtyard.

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19 Georgia State Capitol Dome Reflection at Sunset in Atlanta, Georgia

The gold leaf covering the Georgia State Capitol is from Lumpkin County, the site of the first US gold rush that started in 1828. When it was gilded again in 1958, Dahlonega and Lumpkin citizens donated gold from the same era. On top of the dome is a 1,800 pound, 26 foot tall, copper statue. It is informally called Miss Freedom. Her official name is Goddess of Liberty. She carries a sword in one hand and a torch in the other. They both shine brightly in this skyscraper reflection at sunset.

180 Central Ave SW Atlanta, GA 30303
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20 Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii

The Hawaiian capitol building opened in downtown Honolulu on the island of O’ahu ten years after becoming the 50th state in March of 1959. Its open-air architecture is unique among state capitols. For example, in lieu of a dome, the warm sunshine and passing clouds are your view when looking up from the mosaic floor called Aquarius on the rotunda courtyard.

415 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96813
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21 Hawaii State Capitol House of Representatives in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

The fifty-one members of the Hawaiian House of Representatives meet in this chamber. It is shaped like a volcanic crater which reflects how the eight islands of the Aloha State were created. This symbolism is reinforced when you enter on the first floor and find yourself in the gallery looking down on the meeting room below. The enormous golden chandelier represents the sun.

415 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96813
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22 Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise, Idaho

The base of the Idaho State Capitol in Boise is granite but the rest is gray, local sandstone that resembles stacked logs. A bronze eagle stands at the 208 foot peak of the terra cotta dome. This is the south, main facade with a vehicle entrance called a porte-cochere at the base of the portico. Inside, one quarter of the 190,000 square feet is decorated with red, green, gray or black carved marble. The capitol was finished 22 years after Idaho became the 43rd state on July 3, 1890.

700 W Jefferson St, Boise, ID 83702
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23 Idaho State Capitol Building Rotunda Dome in Boise, Idaho

Idaho State Capitol’s internal dome is supported by Corinthian marble columns and surrounded by windows in the cupola because the architect insisted on flooding the interior with light. It works so well that staff can tell time by the light’s position. This view from the rotunda shows some of the thirteen stars, which represented the colonies, and many of the 43 smaller stars that represented the states when Idaho joined in 1890. During restoration, a material called scagliola was added to the dome. It matches the marble yet glows in the dark so it’s now called “Capitol of Light.”

700 W Jefferson St, Boise, ID 83702
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24 Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois

The “Land of Lincoln” state capitol is in Springfield, Illinois. It should be called “The Town of Lincoln” because Abe’s home, law practice, early political career, presidential museum and tomb are in Springfield. The town’s tallest building is the Greek Revival, 361 foot capitol with its shining zinc dome. After 20 years of construction that exceeded the budget by 20 times, the capitol opened in 1853. It remains the tallest U. S. capitol that is not a skyscraper. Illinois became the 21st state on December 3, 1818.

401 S 2nd St, Springfield, IL 62701
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25 Illinois State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Springfield, Illinois

While looking up from the rotunda at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, you wish you had a closer look at the plaster friezes encircling the dome. It features intricate bas-relief artwork. The panels are painted a bronze hue and depict historical moments such as when Lincoln and Douglas debated slavery in 1858. Flanking the dome are four statues pointing towards elaborate stained glass. The oculus is a state seal from 1839-1867. Interestingly, it is rumored the police department controlled a beacon on top of the dome to summon their officers prior to the invention of car radios.

401 S 2nd St, Springfield, IL 62701
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26 Indiana State Capitol Building Dome Silhouette at Sunset in Indianapolis, Indiana

It is impossible to photograph the entire front, eastern side of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis because buildings block the view at the end of Market Street. However, while trying to accomplish the impossible, I stumbled on this shot of the capitol at sunset from the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle. I later discovered the best way to photograph the eastern side of the state house is from the Embassy Suites parking lot.

1861 Monument Cir, Indianapolis, IN 46204
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27 Indiana State Capitol Building in Indianapolis, Indiana

The current Indiana State Capitol building, also referred to as a state house, is the fifth since Indiana became the 19th state on December 11, 1816. The four-story, Greek Revival building in Indianapolis is in the shape of a cross and constructed from local limestone and oak. It was finished under budget in 1888. By then, the term “Hoosier” had been around for more than fifty years. State historians theorize the term came from the practice of country folk shouting “Who’s here?” when an unidentified person approached their frontier cabin. Hoosier then evolved into a derogatory label before becoming a common name for an Indiana resident around 1830.

200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
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28 Indiana State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana

105 feet above the rotunda floor at the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis is this 72 foot inner dome with delightful blue tones. The exquisite stained glass shines brightly regardless of the weather thanks to a 1988 restoration when lighting and reflective paint were added to the inner dome above the glass.

200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
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29 Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa

Every state capitol built before WWI has a dome. The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines is unique because it has five. The main one rises 275 feet with 23-karat gold leaf over its brick and steel structure. The smaller ones are copper, now green from weathering, with vertical braids of gold. The rest of the structure is sandstone and granite with elegant columns, carvings and arched windows. This exquisite landmark was completed in 1886. Iowa became the 29th state on December 28, 1846.

1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
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30 Iowa State Capitol Dome in Des Moines, Iowa

When the sky is blue, the gilded dome of Iowa’s State Capitol shines like a second sun over Des Moines. From the building’s second floor, you need to climb 298 steps to reach the golden copula and white belvedere. After resuming normal breathing, walk around the steel fenced walkway for a 360° view of downtown, the river and surrounding neighborhoods.

1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
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31 Iowa State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Des Moines, Iowa

Lie on the rotunda floor of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines and look up: this is what you will see. The blue sky is a suspended canvass. Also suspended is the 1922 banner of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was a fraternal organization of Union Civil War veterans. It ended in 1956 with the last member’s death. This dome is actually a false ceiling. Above it is the exterior brick dome covered in gold leaf. Further up is the cupola. This last feature can only be reached by another staircase.

1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
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32 Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, Kansas

The word “Topeka” comes from the Kaw Nation of American Indians. It means, “A good place to grow potatoes.” A bronze statue of a Kansa warrior named Ad Astra was placed atop the Illinois State Capitol’s copper dome in 2002.This finishing touch was added 100 years after the limestone building was finished in 1903. Kansas became the 34th state on January 29, 1861.

300 SW 10th St, Topeka, KS 66612
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33 Kansas State Capitol Building Staircase in Topeka, Kansas

The wooden and copper staircases in the Kansas State Capitol building are gorgeous. The newel posts have ornate engravings including the letters K and S at the top. The head of the balusters resemble the fluted, Corinthian columns supporting the five floors. The indented arches above marble wainscoting house period sconces that bathe the stairs with a warm light.

300 SW 10th St, Topeka, KS 66612
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34 Kentucky State Capitol Building Dome in Frankfort, Kentucky

This Kentucky State Capitol dome in Frankfort was patterned after L’Hôtel National des Invalids in Paris. That is the famous Parisian landmark where Napoleon and other French war veterans are buried. Kentucky’s dome is covered with terra cotta and it rises 215 feet. The Virginia granite, neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style building is adorned with seventy columns. The capital building was completed in 1909. Kentucky was the 15th state to join the union on June 1, 1792. However, they refer to themselves as a commonwealth.

700 Capital Ave, Frankfort, KY 40601
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35 Kentucky State Capitol Building Pediment Statuary in Frankfort, Kentucky

Above the portico of the Kentucky State Capitol Building in Frankfort, is a pointed pediment with symbolic sculptures. The Romanesque woman in the middle is the state. Flanking her are attendants representing Art, Labor, Plenty, History and Progress. The animals symbolize Agriculture. Interestingly, the figures cowering at right are Indians. This statuary was designed by Charles Henry Niehaus. He was a prolific American sculptor. The artist’s work can still be found in over fifty parks, monuments, museums and buildings.

700 Capital Ave, Frankfort, KY 40601
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36 Kentucky State Capitol Building Rotunda Dome in Frankfort, Kentucky

Although the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort was built in 1909. However, the four murals in the triangular spaces, called pendentives, of the rotunda dome did not exist until 100 years later. They are titled: Civitas, The Light of Progress; Industry, The Strength of Commerce; Nature, The Bounty of the Land; and Culture, The Fruits of Knowledge. A detailed brochure on these works is available from the Division of Historic Properties. The art was created by Evergreen Studios from New York City. This firm has become my favorite for restoring the architectural beauty of historic buildings in the United States.

700 Capital Ave, Frankfort, KY 40601
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