U.S. Capitols – Three

At first glance, the beauty of most state capitols rivals the world’s cathedrals and museums. Then take a closer look with the help of a tour guide to decode their symbolism and history. They are a fascinating visit.

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1 Ohio Statehouse Building in Columbus, Ohio

By 1861, it had taken 22 years and seven architects to complete the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. Consequently, the final building did not resemble any of the original designs. For example, a classic dome had been specified. Instead, a low conical roof was built. One critic called it, “a Chinese hat.” Nor does the building follow any single architectural style, although it does have several Greek elements. During the next 128 years, the original 54 rooms were expanded to over 300. This crowded much of the lavish interior spaces. Its best features are the numerous historic paintings and sculptures. Ohio became the 17th state on March 1, 1803.

1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215
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2 Ohio Statehouse Building Rotunda Dome in Columbus, Ohio

120 feet above the Ohio Statehouse rotunda marble floor is the dome’s oculus. The glass skylight, which was replaced in the 1990’s, displays the 1849 version of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. Interestingly, the money for this replica skylight was raised a penny at a time by school children. The warm, salmon colors of the inner dome are the same as when the building was completed in 1861.

1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215
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3 Oklahoma State Capitol Building American Indian Warrior Statue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

In 2002, when the dome was added to the 1917 Oklahoma State Capitol, a 22 foot, 4,000 pound bronze statue was placed on top. This nine-foot replica of “The Guardian” is on the second floor of the rotunda. It is a somber remembrance of the “Trail of Tears” when five Indian tribes were removed from their homelands in the 1830s. The artist was Enoch Haney. He was a multi-term legislator and the grandson of a Seminole chief.

2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
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4 Oklahoma State Capitol Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Capitol was considered finished in 1917. However, part of the original design was not built for another 85 years: the dome. The building cost $1.5 million yet the dome cost almost $21 million. This limestone plus gray and pink granite, Beaux Arts building with mythological stone lions on the roof has the distinction of being the only capitol built on an active oil field. Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 16, 1907.

2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
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5 Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem, Oregon

Oregon’s first two capitol buildings were destroyed by fire. The second one, used from 1876 to 1935, had a traditional appearance. This third version, constructed in Salem in 1938, has a distinctive Art Deco design. Crowing the stark, marble façade is a ribbed, cylinder dome. At the very top is an 8.5 ton, gold-leaf statue representing the Oregon Pioneer. The sculpture is reachable by climbing the tower’s 121 spiraling steps to an observation deck.

900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301
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6 Oregon State Capitol Building Rotunda Dome in Salem, Oregon

In the floor of Oregon’s State Capitol is a bronze replica of the state seal. Between it and the dome’s 106 foot ceiling are four large murals portraying key historic events such as the Lewis and Clark expedition. The interior also features a ring of eagles, slender rectangular windows and eight medallions representing the state seal. The 33 stars signify Oregon’s admission as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859.

900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301
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7 Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The fifth and current Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg has been a masterpiece since it was completed in 1906. At the base of the granite portico are large bronze doors with historic state scenes. Embracing the edges are two beautiful sculptures in Italian marble. The lime green, terra cotta tile dome with 48 portholes resembles St. Peter’s Basilica. On top is a gilded statue of a woman standing on an orb and holding a staff. She symbolizes justice and her name is Commonwealth. Pennsylvania became the 2nd state on December 12, 1787.

501 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17120
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8 Pennsylvania State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is called “the palace of art.” This is an understatement for its lavish interior. The rotunda is charmed with a grand, imperial (two-sided) staircase that is adorned with Romanesque statues holding lite orbs. The number of stunning stained-glass windows, murals, tiles, golden molding and colorful stencils delight the eyes. The four round medallions near the dome’s base represent religion, art, justice, and science. Also shown are two of the four other murals: The Spirit of Vulcan is on the left and the Spirit of Light is on the right.

501 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17120
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9 Rhode Island State House and Rotunda Dome Composite in Providence, Rhode Island

Two photos of Providence, Rhode Island, are The south façade of the marble dome on the Rhode Island State House built in 1904, and The interior rotunda and dome with its decorative designs, murals and rose-colored, rectangular windows. The Latin words around the dome mean, “Rare felicity (state of happiness) of the times when it is permitted to think as you like and say what you think.”

82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903
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10 Rhode Island State House Building in Providence, Rhode Island

The Neoclassical style of the Rhode Island State House in Providence is composed of white marble and was finished in 1904. At the peak of the world’s fourth largest, self-supporting dome is a gilded, bronze statue of Independent Man. He represents the freedom associated with Rhode Island being the first colony to declare their independence from Britain in 1776 and later becoming the 13th state on May 29, 1790.

82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903
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11 South Carolina Capitol Statue of John C. Calhoun in Rotunda in Columbia, South Carolina

The seventh Vice President of the US, John C. Calhoun, was nicknamed “the cast iron man” for his staunch beliefs of state’s rights, limited government, minority representation and free trade. He was also Secretary of State and War plus a local senator and house member. Now a life-size bronze of him stands in the South Carolina Capitol rotunda. Unfortunately, he was also an advocate for maintaining slavery and succeeding from the Union.

1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
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12 South Carolina State House Building in Columbia, South Carolina

During the 56 year construction of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, it was plagued with problems, including poor workmanship, fraud, artillery shells during the Civil War, and poverty during the Reconstruction Era until it was finished in 1907. On the grounds is a statue of Strom Thurmond, who was a US Senator for 48 years and over 100 when he left office. There is also a controversial Confederate flag that waved above the dome since 1962 but was moved to a ground memorial in 2000. In response, a 2013 political spoof claims there is now a Hardee’s restaurant flag atop the dome. South Carolina became the 8th state on May 23, 1788.

1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
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13 South Dakota Capitol Rotunda Dome in Pierre, South Dakota

The eye travels 96 feet from the glass and tile rotunda floor to the top of the South Dakota Capitol dome in Pierre. Edward Simmons painted four pendentives (dome arches) like he had for the Minnesota Capitol five years before. The south one in the upper left is called “Motherhood.” The other shows goddess Minerva as “Wisdom, Industry and Mining.” The next stop is a band of ribbons symbolizing government’s eternity. Next are 16 painted alcoves followed by rectangular openings and Victorian stained glass all in a hub and spoke design. It is gorgeous!

500 E Capitol Ave, Pierre, SD 57501
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14 South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre, South Dakota

South Dakota was inhabited by the Sioux Indians plus French and European settlers before the Lewis and Clark exploration in 1804. It then became part of the Dakota Territory in 1861 and the 40th state on November 2, 1889. 21 years later, the state capitol was finished in Pierre. It closely resembles Montana’s capitol with a granite and limestone base, Corinthian columns and a copper dome.

500 E Capitol Ave, Pierre, SD 57501
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15 Tennessee State Capitol Andrew Jackson Equestrian Statue in Nashville, Tennessee

This equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills is on the Tennessee State Capitol grounds. A similar sculpture is located in Florida, New Orleans and next to the White House. The other Tennessean to become president was James Polk. The 11th president is buried beside his wife on the capitol grounds.

600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243
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16 Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville, Tennessee

The Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville patterns a Greek Ionic temple. On top of its limestone façade is a tower instead of a traditional dome. Before the building was finished in 1859, architect William Strickland died and was buried in a crypt above the cornerstone. He is credited with initiating the Greek Revival movement. Some people claim his ghost haunts the building. Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796.

600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243
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17 Texas State Capitol Building in Austin, Texas

In 1888, the builders of the Texas State Capitol accepted three million acres of land stretching 200 miles along the New Mexico border in lieu of $3 million dollars. Also adhering to the slogan, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas,” this grand building is the nation’s largest capitol. The Italian Renaissance structure has almost 900 windows, 400 rooms and 360,000 square feet of space. The Sunset Red Granite façade gives it a unique and beautiful glow. Texas became the 28th state on December 29, 1845.

1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
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18 Texas State Capitol Senate Chamber in Austin, Texas

The Senate Chamber in the Texas State Capitol has the original furniture and chandeliers from 1888. You can also admire 15 paintings of historical Texans, including Lyndon Johnson. One of the oldest and most significant portraits is of Stephen F. Austin. He was the “Father of Texas” and the namesake for the city of Austin. The artwork hangs behind the Lieutenant Governor’s desk.

1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
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19 Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah

There are 52 columns surrounding three sides of the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. The structure’s Corinthian style has been compared to the Parthenon in Athens and the Forum in Jerash, Jordan. Finished in 1916, the capitol was built with Utah granite. The copper dome extends 250 feet. Utah became the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

320 E Capitol St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
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20 Utah State Capitol East Atrium in Salt Lake City, Utah

This view of the atrium in the Utah State Capitol is from the Supreme Court steps. The photo shows the skylight and columns supporting the east atrium’s mezzanines. You also get a peek at the painted rotunda with its 6,000 pound chandelier. Your view ends at the grand marble staircase in the west atrium. Above the House Chamber entrance is a mural called, “Passing of the Wagons.”

320 E Capitol St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
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21 Vermont State House Building in Montpelier, Vermont

Montpelier is home to the Vermont State House built in 1833. With less than 8,000 people, it is the smallest state capital city. This row of tulips leads to the Doric portico and columns, bronze-like doors and Greek Revival granite walls that resemble the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. On top of the wood and copper dome that’s gilded with gold is the Roman goddess of Agriculture named Ceres. The surrounding park and wooded hill provide a serene setting for the state’s legislators. Vermont became the 14th state on March 4, 1791.

115 State St, Montpelier, VT 05633
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22 Vermont State House Representatives Hall in Montpelier, Vermont

The dominant color in the Vermont House of Representatives Hall is red, which is found in the carpet, the drapes and the upholstered chairs. The wall sconces and gas chandelier date back to the 1850s, and the later features mythological figures. The portrait of George Washington above the speaker’s chair was painted in 1837 by George Gassner and was the only surviving object from the 1857 fire that destroyed the previous capitol.

115 State St, Montpelier, VT 05633
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23 Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Virginia

While the governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson moved the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. He also commissioned the design. It resembles the 16 BC Maison Carrée in Southern France. By the time the building was finished in 1792, Jefferson was the country’s first Secretary of State under George Washington. This structure was also the capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Virginia became the 10th state on June 25, 1788.

1000 Bank St, Richmond, VA 23219
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24 Virginia State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Richmond, Virginia

The Virginia State Capitol rotunda dome was added two years after the Richmond building was finished in 1792. At its apex is a lattice skylight. The four corner murals are the state seals and Roman symbols for unity and civic authority. On the rotunda floor is a life-size sculpture of George Washington from 1788, a year before he became president. Surrounding Washington are busts of seven other US presidents from Virginia.

1000 Bank St, Richmond, VA 23219
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25 U.S. Capitol Building and Flowers in Washington, D.C.

Behind these purple tulips and pansies at the House Triangle is the majestic profile of the U.S. Capitol. Among the neighboring landmarks in the Capital Hill Historic District are the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress plus the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn Buildings. This view down South Capitol Street is between the latter two House Office Buildings.

House Triangle, Washington, DC 20016
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26 Evolution of the U. S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

George Washington selected the site for the U.S. Capitol in 1791 and laid its cornerstone in 1793. Its evolution required 170 years. Here are the historical milestones. 1800: Congress moved into the nearly finished North Wing. 1811: South Wing completed. 1814: British troops set the Capitol ablaze. 1819: Restoration completed. 1826-1856: Life of the first dome. 1857: House of Representatives finished. 1859: Senate building done. 1863: Statue of Freedom placed on top of the new dome. 1868: Capitol extended. 1891: Marble terraces added. 1898: A gas explosion. 1962: The East front was expanded resulting in this view today. 2008: The 580,000 square foot Visitor Center opened underground.

45 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20515
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27 Washington State Capitol Building Rotunda Arch in Olympia, Washington

The Washington State Capitol was finished in 1928. However, the Legislative Building’s rotunda did not achieve its grandeur until the mid-1980s. The huge columns were covered with an imitation marble and a Dutch metal simulating gold leaf. They are accented with arches and 148, brightly colored rosettes. Hanging from the walls are banners that resemble the state’s seal. An interesting note: Washington’s state flag is the only one with a president’s image.

416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504
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28 Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia, Washington

The Legislative Building serving as Washington’s State Capitol was built in 1928. The self-supporting masonry dome rises 287 feet. It is part of a government campus in Olympia including the Supreme Court (called the Temple of Justice), the Insurance Building, the Senate office building and the governor’s mansion. Washington’s statehood occurred on November 11, 1889.

416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504
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29 West Virginia State Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia

The West Virginia State Capitol building, which was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and finished in 1932, has a stately view of the Kanawha River flowing through Charleston. The exterior is Indiana limestone with an impressive portico supported by Corinthian columns. The gilded dome peaks with an eagle at 292 feet, which is taller than the U.S. Capitol. During the Civil War, West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863, after seceding from the confederate state of Virginia.

1900 Kanawha Blvd E # G-436, Charleston, WV 25305
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30 West Virginia State Capitol Rotunda and Chandelier in Charleston, West Virginia

Gracing the rotunda of the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston is an exquisite chandelier. It is made of over 10,000 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal and is brightened by almost 100 light bulbs which also make the surrounding white Vermont marble sparkle. It hangs from a 54 foot chain and is suspended 180 feet from the floor. Also notice the statue of Robert Byrd. He is the longest serving U.S. Congressional member with 51 years as a senator plus six in the House.

1900 Kanawha Blvd E # G-436, Charleston, WV 25305
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31 West Virginia State Capitol Rotunda Dome in Charleston, West Virginia

The West Virginia State Capitol’s rotunda was the third and final phase of the building’s construction and is 75 feet in diameter. The dome is framed by four marble arches and deep-blue plaster. Above that is a circle of carved marble, a wrought iron railing, gold leaf bands and small windows. Suspended from the middle is a 4,000 pound crystal chandelier. It is hard to believe that such a beautiful centerpiece was begun months after the stock market crash of 1929 and finished during the early years of the Great Depression.

1900 Kanawha Blvd E # G-436, Charleston, WV 25305
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32 Wisconsin State Capitol Building Composite in Madison, Wisconsin

Two photos of Madison, Wisconsin, are: 1) The gold-leaf covered “Wisconsin” statue. This symbolizes “Forward” on top of the world’s largest white granite dome of Wisconsin’s State Capitol completed in 1917. 2) The interior rotunda. This was constructed with 43 types of stone from across Europe and the Midwest. The inside is also graced with lavish arches, stencils and murals. Shown are two of four mosaics. Each one is made from 100,000 pieces of glass. On the left is “Government” and on the right is “Liberty.”

2 E Main St, Madison, WI 53703
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33 Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State Capitol’s dome is the largest by volume in the U.S. The pinnacle rises 284 feet. This is only 3 ½ feet shy of the U.S. Capitol. The building was constructed from White Bethel Vermont granite and completed in 1917. The symmetry of its four, 187 foot long wings gives it a nearly consistent appearance from any direction. They are equally beautiful. Wisconsin became the 30th state on May 29, 1848.

2 E Main St, Madison, WI 53703
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34 Wyoming State Capitol Building in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Wyoming State Capitol was designed in a Renaissance Revival style and built with sandstone in 1890. The House and Senate were added in 1917. Its copper dome is gilded with 24-carat gold. Two statues greet visitors. On the left is Chief Washakie. He was the head of the Eastern Shoshone Indians. On the right is Esther Hobart Morris. She helped Wyoming become the first state to allow women to vote in 1869. Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10, 1890.

200 W 24th St, Cheyenne, WY 82001
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35 Wyoming State Capitol Dome Through Bucking Horse and Rider Fence in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming’s logo of the Bucking Horse and Rider dates back to 1918. The symbol was designed as an insignia for the Wyoming National Guard during WWI. This image of the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne was taken through a nearby fence bearing the state’s BH&R logo. This is not a composite photo.

200 W 24th St, Cheyenne, WY 82001
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36 Wyoming State Capitol Interior Staircase in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The interior, three-level staircase in the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne is charming. This stairwell features warm cherry woodwork, railings and balusters framing delightful checkerboard marble floors. The building’s wings are adorned with Corinthian columns and etched arches with period lighting hanging from the ceilings.

200 W 24th St, Cheyenne, WY 82001
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