‘A+ Capitol Posts’ Category


Getting To Goal

22 house 2Linda Burton posting from Dover, Delaware – Of course I was bragging. “This is my 49th capitol,” I said to Nathaniel and Michael, as we began our tour of Leg Hall. “Leg Hall” is the affectionate nickname for the Delaware state capitol, because it’s where the legislature has met since 1933. It’s a stately Georgian brick structure, in keeping with the history of the town; located in First State Heritage Park along with the Old State House and the Golden 22 michael thumbs upFleece Tavern, all part of a complex of state buildings and historic moments. I was reveling in my own “historic moment” as I continued my boast; “49th out of 50! Only one to go and that’s Annapolis. I’m getting close!” Both men nodded in approval, affirming they were impressed with my achievement. “Nice!” said Michael, who was visiting from Texas. “I’ve got twelve left to see myself. But, I have run a marathon in all 50 states.” Well now, that was a topper. “Picture time,” I said, grinning. “This is a thumbs-up photo op. I’ve never met anyone who has 22 rodney on horserun 50 marathons, much less in every state!” Michael posed for me, thumbs appropriately up. It’s interesting what people do, and how much effort they’ll put forth to achieve a goal. Tour guide Nathaniel led us into the Senate Chambers then, slipping into storytelling mode as he pointed to the murals above our heads, and told the tales of Delaware. They were people stories, of course; it’s people who had the vision, and the goals; it’s people who did what it took. Nathaniel pointed to the mural of a man on a horse; the sky had an eerie darkening cast; the trees were bare. Hurry! The horse reared up, the man’s scarf flew behind. “That is Caesar Rodney,” he began. » read more


Birds And Bees

16 NJ visit 001Linda Burton posting from Trenton, New Jersey – The New Jersey state bird is the Eastern Goldfinch, and the New Jersey state bug is the Honeybee. I was standing one-legged in a center hall of the New Jersey State House when I learned this; the tour guide had stopped the crowd by a glass-encased Boehm ceramic artwork to explain. Inside, perched on the New Jersey state tree – the red oak – were a number of bright yellow birds; striped honeybees hovered over sweet-purple violets, the state flower. I didn’t get a photo of the display because there was a glare on the glass, so I can’t show you 16 carpethow pretty it was. I might have tried harder for a better angle except, as I said, I was standing one-legged, holding onto the wall. My knee had suddenly decided not to work; it does that sometimes, especially, it seems, if I’m in a crowd; that makes for a higher embarrassment factor. Nobody seemed to notice, however; and soon we were in the Assembly Chamber, just down the hallway, where I could sit. Ah, look at the floor! The Birds and Bees and Trees and Flowers were part of the carpet design, a charming swirl against a background of blue. I got a picture of that, and 16 seal highlooked around the room, squinting as the sun beamed through the high windows on either side of the State Seal; our guide was focused on the legislative process. In my hand I held a roster of the 215th New Jersey Legislature – 80 in the Assembly; 40 in the Senate; party and district were identified, phone number listed. Two seats are vacant, it said; I counted 70 Democrats and 48 Republicans serving a state where the Republican governor makes the daily news; Chris Christie, resoundingly re-elected November 5. » read more


Looking For Socks

09 cover 001Linda Burton posting from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – “This is the handsomest building I ever saw,” is a quote they brag about in Harrisburg. That’s what President Theodore Roosevelt said on October 4, 1906, when he attended the dedication of the Pennsylvania state capitol. Now, I’ve seen a lot of capitol buildings (this is the 47th one on the Journey) and I try to be very careful not to compare one to another, focusing instead on the unique and beautiful qualities of each. But I found myself looking around for my socks today, because (figuratively speaking) my first glimpse inside this capitol’s rotunda knocked them off. Architect Joseph Huston (1866-1940) envisioned the capitol as a “palace of art” and he did not miss the mark. It is described as a “priceless architectural and artistic treasure” and its 600 rooms burst with so much color, and so many messages, that “sensory overload” must be a way of life for those who work inside. And 09 house b 001everybody does – the executive, judicial, and legislative branches are housed in the capitol; it is the workshop of Pennsylvania state government. It’s a huge complex of Renaissance marble and gold; the outside (five stories high) is Vermont granite, the roof is green glazed terra cotta tile; inside you’ll see Italian, French, English, Greek, Roman and Victorian influences. Yet somehow, Huston pulled it all together while telling the story of Pennsylvania, making it an all-American edifice. Because first and foremost, the capitol is a public building, belonging to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The marble staircase was set to showcase a wedding today; the guest chairs waited in place. I asked about the rotunda, but my guide pointed to the floor; “Let’s start with the Moravian tiles,” she said. » read more


Part Of The Process

23 capitol maineLinda Burton posting from Augusta, Maine – “There’s not much legroom under the desks,” said Dan, pulling out the wastebasket for us to see, “so people tend to set these behind their chairs.” He proceeded to demonstrate how crowded that made the walking space for getting in and out. “Big feet like mine are prone to trip,” he continued, “but little kids can zip through in a flash.” Dan Fournier, our guide in the Maine State House this morning, was explaining the Honorary Page Program, which allows even very young Maine students to spend a day working in the 23 longstafflegislature during session. “Their job is to deliver messages, or documents, to the legislators,” he said. “And they love it. They don’t just observe what happens here, they are part of the process.” Our tour group today included State Representative Thomas Longstaff, one of Maine’s 151 legislators. As we sat in the House Chambers he added his comments, pointing out the colored bands on the desk microphones. “They designate what paper materials we want to receive,” Tom explained. “I have chosen to go paperless, using my laptop for retrieving the documents we need. If a mike has a yellow band, for instance, that 23 house voting boardperson chooses to receive a paper copy of a bill.” I looked around the room, noting yellow bands on mikes. Tom called our attention to the electronic voting board in the corner too; “In addition to the 151 legislator names,” he pointed out, “there are three more names at the bottom that represent the Maliseet, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy tribes of Maine, and even though they are non-voting members, they have the right to speak, and introduce legislation. They are part of the process.” Our attention switched from the building itself to what happens inside of it; questions began to fly. » read more


Meticulous Attention

11 david and chairLinda Burton posting from Montpelier, Vermont – Meticulous. That’s the word. When it comes to restoration, there are two ways to go about it. You can recreate the general mood of the past – who would really know, after all? Or you can pay meticulous attention to the smallest detail. Such as the antlers on a hand-carved deer, so tiny no one would ever notice they were missing. I stood in the Governor’s Office as David Schutz, Curator for the State, pointed out the deer. It’s part of the Constitution Chair, so called because it was carved from the timbers of the frigate USS Constitution (aka Old Ironsides) and has served as the official governor’s chair since 1858. Now that’s a pretty awesomely unique chair, right there. But, as David pointed out, it suffered from years of use, and modernization. It was reupholstered with modern fabrics, and somewhere along the way, the 11 david and chair cdelicate antlers of the deer were broken off. During the restoration of 1985, the decision was made to restore the chair, and give the deer its antlers back. But not just any wood was used. A trip was made to Boston, where the USS Constitution is berthed for public tours. By special arrangement, a small piece of “Constitution timber” was obtained from which to 11 skyline vermontcarve new antlers for the deer; the Constitution Chair was made whole again. Meticulous. There’s another word that describes the Vermont State House, and that word is “intimate.” The building nestles between the river and the hills; inside its granite walls there’s warmth and color in every room. It has a cozy feel, but touches everywhere that make it grand; soft red velvet draped against shuttered windows; gilt-bronze radiator screens with delicate patterns of cast-iron curving vines; tiny warrior cherubs perched on the gasoliers. » read more


Reach For The Stars

07 capitol w tree left fLinda Burton posting from Lansing, Michigan – The catalpa tree was already there when architect Elijah Meyers came to build a capitol. “We figure it’s more than 140 years old,” the groundskeepers told me. Construction on the third Michigan state capitol began in the summer of 1872; the catalpa would have grown as the capitol grew. From the day of the capitol’s dedication on January 1, 1879 until today, when I came for a visit, the catalpa has stood just to the left of the front sidewalk, watching over everything. It is well over a hundred feet tall and 85 feet across 07 tree fencedits crown, one of the biggest of its kind in the country. It is fenced for its protection, and steel posts now support two of its extensive limbs; its 20-foot trunk is split, from earliest days, it appears. But it is wearing its age well and each year produces a hearty crop of long thin seed-filled pods, which the groundskeepers collect and give to the Michigan State University arborists for “starting.” Plantings are shared with the community; you might find this catalpa’s babies all over Lansing. “All trees that grow from this tree’s seed split too,” I was 07 entrance 2told, as I was handed a seed pod to keep for my own treasure. I tucked it into my backpack and headed on towards the capitol entrance. No steps and no mystery; a clearly marked ground-floor entrance led me directly to the Visitor Information desk, where Matt VanAcker welcomed me and gave me information about the capitol. “A few days ago, there were no desks or chairs in the chambers,” he said. “We are just getting back in order after some major renovation.” I headed for the first floor rotunda, where the tour was already underway, booklet of facts in hand. » read more


The Town Square

27 capitol 11 cheeseLinda Burton posting from Madison, Wisconsin – My favorite thing about the Wisconsin State Capitol is its “town squareness.” You know, like the courthouse square in most of small-town America; the village green; the gathering place. Make no mistake; the building is massive, and elegant; and still serves all three branches of state government. The governor’s office is on the first floor; visitors are welcome in the adjoining conference room, a Venetian palace look-alike with fancy-dancy paintings on every wall; the ceiling too, look up, for sure. The Senate and the Assembly each have chambers on the second floor, as does the Supreme Court; the fourth wing is the North Hearing Room. Everything has a glamorous look; there are marbles and woods from Germany, and Italy, and France; and, to stay true to its roots, Wisconsin, of course. But it shares its elegance; it’s 27 capitol 7 openan open-door capitol. Every entrance is available, on every side; walk in and look around, or take a tour, or express your opinion, seven days a week. Visit on a Saturday, when the Farmers Market tents surround the square. People come in to be dazzled; posing for pictures on the balcony as they wave at their photographer down below; arms filled with 27 capitol 6 picture takingparcels of cheese, or farm-fresh kohlrabi, from the stands outside. The setting is magnificent; where else could you find a background like that? Where else such history, or such art? Where else such a forum for being heard? I had a conversation with the Capitol Police, whose desk fronts the Governor’s Office. And I had a conversation with one of the Solidarity Singers, who has been arrested by the Capitol Police at least five times during the last few weeks. They share a difficult problem; I listened to their conundrum. » read more


Looking Up

23 kids looking upLinda Burton posting from Lincoln, Nebraska – “Sit around this circle and look up,” Jamison the Tour Guide instructed the kids. They plopped to the floor and so did he, right in their midst. The rest of us kept standing; an appropriate entourage of parents, one grandma, a couple from Germany, and me. We exchanged glances, acknowledging our inability to gracefully plop; then grandma and I found a bench. Meanwhile, the kids kept looking up, and up, as Jamison pointed and told stories. “See the man behind the plow?” he said, and directed everyone to look at a large mural on the wall high above our heads. The children nodded. “The grass is 23 furrowvery thick,” he explained, “and he is digging up sections of it with his plow, and stacking the sections. Do you know what he did with the large sections of grass, or sod?” They did not know. “They built houses,” he said joyfully, “sod houses! They stacked it up and made houses from it. Now, why do you think they used sod instead of trees?” The children looked at each other, and looked again at the mural. They did not know the answer. “We have trees in Lincoln now,” he continued, “but many years ago, there were no trees, just prairie grass. No trees! Somebody planted all the trees you see today. There was no wood to build with, so the 23 jeweled domesettlers used what they had. And that was sod.” There was a group “ohh” from the children as they thought about that. Jamison continued with the beginnings of Nebraska, pictured right there in the vestibule of the capitol. The capitol’s art is “themed” from beginning to end, reflecting the values of the people of Nebraska. There’s hushed behavior here; the building feels cathedral-like; especially looking up. » read more


Taking A Shine To It

11 shinyLinda Burton posting from Topeka, Kansas – The inside of the Kansas State Capitol shines. Gleams. Glows. The marble floor is mirror-like, reflecting every hanging light; when you stand in the middle of the rotunda you can even see the dome looking back at you. But look up. There is almost too much to see; Andrea, our tour guide, pointed out the light-filtering glass bordered by shiny copper strips, the stunning copper columns, the 900-pound chandelier. Colorful murals surround all of that; look east to see the Knowledge panel, with Temperance to the left and Religion to the right. South is Power, and soldiers of war; west is Peace, with Science and Art; north is Plenty, faced by Labor and Agriculture; drama and ethics, overhead. Andrea told about the restoration; a multi-year project begun in 2002 and still underway. The shiny copper we saw today had blackened over the years; the colorful walls and stenciling had been painted over. “It was dull,” she said. “and dark. Now when you look 11 rotundaaround…” she waved her hand in a wonderment gesture, “well, it’s just awesome.” We agreed, and clicked our cameras. I asked about the flags I’d seen in a picture. “We still have the flags,” she replied. “But during the restoration the holders got misplaced. We’ve ordered new holders,” she laughed. The eight flags represent nations that claimed all or portions of what became the state of Kansas – Britain, France (twice), Mexico, Spain, Republic of Texas, plus of course, the United States and Kansas flags. “When we’re done with the exterior work on the dome,” Andrea continued, “we’ll open it for tours again. If you can climb 296 steps you can walk around the balcony up there.” Today however, we headed for the vintage elevator and the third floor. » read more


Superlative, In A Word

30 capitol carLinda Burton posting from Jefferson City, Missouri – I parked squarely in front of the building. No parking meter, no driving round and round the block. Good. Thomas Jefferson’s statue overlooked the scene from the top of the massive steps. Distinctive. I couldn’t manage that many steps but never fear, just to the right a wide ramp took me behind the steps; it once was the carriage entrance. Super. Inside the automatic door and straight ahead to the Visitor Desk, where tours are offered seven days a week. Fantastic. Jim was ready to begin the 11 o’clock tour; a couple entered just after me and off we went into the rotunda, first stop, the state seal, gleaming golden in the shiny marble floor. “No, we don’t have grizzly bears roaming around Missouri,” Jim laughed, as he pointed to the two large bears on either side of the seal. “But they do represent strength.” A smaller bear and an eagle bearing arrows and olive branches in its claws filled the center, along with a crescent, representing potential for growth. The words “United we stand, divided we fall” surround the seal; a banner below carries the state motto “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto,” a Latin phrase 30 sealmeaning “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” Powerful. Thirty-four stars across the top represent Missouri becoming the 34th state in 1821; Jim pointed to what might be considered an error at the bottom – “That date is 1820, which is when our constitution was written, although Missouri was not admitted to the Union until the next year.” Jim went on to explain that this building, completed in 1917, is the third built in Jefferson City, and the sixth that has served the state. “Let’s head upstairs” he said. “I’ll show you something there.” » read more