It’s Pretty

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I think you’ll agree with me when you visit the Arkansas State Capitol. It’s pretty. You start thinking that when you’re half a block away and can see the shiny bronze doors across the front; they are positively gleaming. The building is brilliantly clean and white; the grounds are neatly groomed; like I said, it’s pretty. Some capitols go for simplicity; some for magnificence. Many put their attention towards works of art; others are designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the state. The Arkansas capitol is pleasing to look at and makes you want to hang around and keep looking. Like I said, it’s pretty. And folks inside are friendly. The security guards greeted me warmly, directing me across the great hallway to the Visitors Desk, right past the decorations that were half in the box but rapidly being placed on the tree by a very patient person with a long-stemmed hook. “I think the tree is 32 feet,” he answered to my question, as I looked up and up through the next balcony into the soaring rotunda. I spotted touches of red on every floor above; I couldn’t wait to see it all. So April took me on a tour.

She wanted me to see the Governor’s Reception Room first; it’s used by the Governor to meet with staff, reporters, and members of the public; it’s also where bills are signed into law. The mantle on one end has carvings representing European settlers; on the other end of the room the carvings bear the likenesses of Native Americans. Today the mantles are draped in red. So is the staircase, as April leads me towards the elevator, where I catch my reflection in the east front bronze doors that I’d admired from outside. They are even more splendid up close. “They are 10 feet tall and weigh a thousand pounds each,” April said. “They were bought from Tiffany’s in 1910 for $10,000; today they are valued at $3 million.” “How do you keep them so shiny?” I asked. “They are polished every single day,” April answered. “The same man has polished them every day for the past nine years. He uses Brasso.” Polished every day! That is taking care.

In the House Gallery my adjective changes from pretty to beautiful. The room is breathtaking; a softly colored stained glass dome above; softly draped silk curving between the panels overhead. “The stained glass was added to reduce the glare,” April explained; “and the draperies to improve the acoustics.” The ultimate effect is a high-ceilinged room that feels like an intimate workspace. April threw a few more facts my way – Arkansas has 35 senators and 100 representatives. Senators may serve two four-year terms; representatives three two-year terms. The General Assembly meets in regular session for at least 60 days in odd-numbered years; a fiscal session lasting at least 30 days meets in even-numbered years.

The second-level balcony is buzzing with activity; there are lights to be hung and the Santa Village to be readied for Saturday’s lighting ceremony and Open House. The public is invited; choirs will be singing; children will be wide-eyed, I’m sure. Now we’re looking up into the rotunda; gazing at the chandelier. “It weighs 4,000 pounds and the chain is 73 feet long. It takes 27 minutes for the electric pulley to lower it when the light bulbs need to be changed.” April regales me with more facts but I’m on sensory overload by now.

I thanked April for the tour and we promised to look for each other at the Saturday ceremony. “Oh, and it’s 213 feet from the ground level to the top of the cupola,” she said, unable to resist one more superlative fact. Back through the doors and outside, I turned around to check it out. Yep, it’s pretty, all right.