Posts Tagged ‘State Capitol’


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


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


Two For One, Special

17 capitol carLinda Burton posting from Lincoln, Nebraska – Look carefully at my picture of the Nebraska state capitol. Do you notice anything unusual? I thought it was nice that free parking is available close by, and a sign at the bottom of the steps shows the open hours and the ADA entrance; that’s unusual, but not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about a feature unlike any other capitol in the United States. Thirty-seven capitol buildings have domes and four are skyscraper-highrise in construction. But the Nebraska capitol fits into both categories! A domed highrise, unique 17 capitol hrs signand striking. It’s not the tallest of the three built in the 30’s when economic considerations were primary and Art deco was the design of choice, nor was it the least expensive to build, but it incorporates features that meet the needs of Nebraska citizens with both efficiency and beauty. And behind every element that is functional lies a deeper meaning of what Nebraska is all about. Take that golden dome, for instance. It is symbolic of the sun, so central to the weather of the prairie state; its reflective surface even changes 17 sowercolor as the weather changes. Below that, the frieze around the drum depicts thunderbirds, an American Indian symbol of thunder. Atop the dome stands the Sower, arm extended as he spreads the seed in a northwesterly direction, where most of Nebraska’s farmlands lie. These three elements together represent weather and agriculture; symbolically, they are an homage to civilizations of the past – Egyptians, American Indians, and the European settlers. From top to bottom the theme carries through, yet all the spaces are usable, and logically arranged. But it’s not just the building that’s unique, it’s also what happens inside. I’m talking about the legislative system – the only one in the country that is unicameral. » 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


As Pretty As Ours

20 capitol frontLinda Burton posting from Springfield, Illinois – The grass was so green it commanded my attention. The sweet smell of spring hedge assailed my senses the minute I stepped from the car; the grass added a visual blast; wow, what did the groundskeeper do to get such green? The wind sent my hat sailing; I chased it across the lawn, wanting to stop and sit right in the middle of that luscious grass. But I plopped it back onto my head, secured the string, and kept walking; I had a purpose. Past the statue of Stephen Douglas, up a few steps, into the doors of the building that has served as this state’s capitol since 1877. The two men at security waved me towards Xray; “Where are you from?” one 20 capitol enteringasked as my bag went through. I told them about the Journey. “This is my thirty-first capitol,” I said. “Is any other one as pretty as ours?” inquired the one whose badge told me he was Fred. “Well, you’ve got the best grass I’ve ever seen!” I laughed. “We’ve got the highest dome,” he said. “It is 74 feet higher than the national capitol.” “It’s shaped like a Greek cross,” Robert added, “and it is the sixth capitol we’ve had. The first was in Kaskaskia.” Fred picked up a 20 domebrochure; “It cost $4,315,591 to build,” he read, “and they used 3.4 million pounds of cast iron in it.” “You guys aren’t Security, you’re PR,” I told them; “where should I start?” They directed me straight ahead, across the rotunda to the Visitor Desk. “And look up,” Fred urged. “There are 9,000 pieces of stained glass in the dome.” I walked past the open-armed statue of Illinois Welcoming The World, and looked up. » read more


Ghosts On The Hill

23 hill to capitolLinda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – The couple behind was panting even more than me. There was a steep hillclimb to get to the capitol entry point and the closest parking was blocks away in an expensive high-rise garage. I passed THP scrutiny and received my entry pass but needed to catch my breath; I watched as the Tennessee Highway Patrol guard at the tunnel door went through his routine again. He opened the woman’s bag and searched it; he photocopied their photo ID and entered their names into his database. Finally issued passes, 23 capitol markerthey were allowed to walk through Xray, and given directions to the elevator. “That’s not very welcoming,” I commented to the officer, noting his name on his badge and adding “Mike,” to my sentence, aiming for a friendly tone. “Why do you require photo ID before allowing people to visit their state capitol? I haven’t seen that anywhere before.” Mike shook his head in a kind of apology. “We’ve had so many threats,” he answered. “We check names against our database of people who are considered dangerous and not allowed in.” We chatted a while, discussing the fine line between “openness” and “safety” with regard to public buildings in this day and age. The Tennessee State Capitol is a treasure, to be sure, 23 capitol hillfilled with historic moments and memories; it even serves as the final resting place of its architect William Strickland, who is buried in the northeast corner. Though sitting high atop a hill, the building is dwarfed today by the city that has grown up around it; skyscrapers and congested streets almost edge out the feel of history. But I’d come to see; I said goodbye to Mike and headed down the hall, my photo-pass stuck to my shirt. » read more


One Two Three

30 capitol frontLinda Burton posting from Charleston, West Virginia – Imagine building a house with 333 rooms. When you stand in front of the West Virginia State Capitol, you have to think about that. How did Cass Gilbert do it, back in the early 30’s? More’s the question, how did he manage to finish the monumental project on time, and under budget? It seems he used a simple principle – he broke a huge task into smaller parts; as easy as one, two, three. Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) had a well-established reputation when he was selected to design a capitol for West Virginia. Born in Ohio and educated at MIT, he lived in Minneapolis for many years; he designed a number of buildings there and was commissioned to design the Minnesota State Capitol in 1895. That wow-factored his name so much he moved his operations to New York, where he became a celebrity architect. He designed the Woolworth Building there; it was the world’s tallest building when it 30 cass cwas built in 1913; his technique for cladding a steel frame became the model for decades. He designed campus buildings in Texas and train stations in Connecticut and the US Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC. West Virginia was in crisis need for a new capitol when the Capitol Building Commission selected Cass Gilbert on July 23, 1921. The West Virginia capitol had mysteriously caught fire and burned beyond use on January 3 of that year; government operations were moved to a temporary building dubbed “the pasteboard capitol.” Cass Gilbert and the Commission began to search for a suitable site for the permanent construction. By the end of December the location was settled and Gilbert began the master plan. » read more


Sophisticated Simplicity

15 washington rotundaLinda Burton posting from Richmond, Virginia – If you want to know what George Washington really looked like, go to the Virginia state capitol. Centered in the rotunda against the simplicity of a formal backdrop of black and white stands a life-size statue of Washington, considered by his contemporaries to be “a perfect likeness.” It was June 1784 when the Virginia General Assembly commissioned the statue to be made; Thomas Jefferson, on a diplomatic mission in France, secured the services of French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon for the work. Houdon didn’t guess at his task; in the fall of 1785 he traveled to Mount Vernon to study his subject. He made a plaster mask of Washington’s head and took detailed measurements of his body; from this he modeled a terra cotta bust to take back to his workshop in France. 15 washington cThe resulting statue, carved of Carrara marble, was shipped to America in 1796 and has graced the capitol’s rotunda since. It is considered to be Virginia’s greatest treasure and one of the world’s finest portrait sculptures; it is the only full-length statue for which the first President posed. Although Washington’s sword is by his side and he wears his Revolutionary uniform, he 15 statue and rotundacarries a civilian walking cane and stands over a plough; Houdon sought to show the balance between Washington’s life as a soldier, statesman, and private citizen. In the niches of the rotunda are busts of other Virginia-born presidents who succeeded Washington – Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson – and another work by Houdon; that of LaFayette, the French citizen who was a Major General in service to the United States during the Revolutionary War. But more about the rotunda itself, a magnificent two-story space capped by a dome; a dome that is invisible from the outside. » read more


La Famille And The Beausoleil

Linda Burton posting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana –Sunday morning in Louisiana calls for brunch, in my opinion. Brunch with music, something French, perhaps? I picked Beausoleil; it met the French requirement (meaning “beautiful sun”) and was on the way to the state capitol, which would be my second stop. Christmas wreaths on red doors; the Sunday music man standing by the front window tuning his guitar; I knew I’d made a good choice. “Merry Christmas,” I said; he nodded back, “Same to you.” The hostess approached; hair in a French plait; leather boots to her knees over casual jeans; fringed scarf draped down long; the proper ambiance. I was seated right away; a cozy corner facing French doors that led out to the patio. This was a neighborhood stop; a friendly charm permeated the room; people chatted from one table to the next. My server appeared wearing a butcher’s apron and a handlebar mustache. “I’m Christopher,” he said, as he leaned close and rattled off the specials of the day. Southern Magazine recently listed Beausoleil as one of the top 50 restaurants in the south, I’d read, citing Chef Nathan Gresham’s Seared Foie Gras French toast and Truffled Fried Oysters as part of the reason; he’s built his menu around fresh, local ingredients. So far, so good, I’m thinking, studying my menu. » read more