Kurt's Historic Sites

Providence, Rhode Island capitol

Rhode Island

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
May 29, 179013th admitted1st visited

Photographed May 15, 2010.

Being born in Providence and raised in Rhode Island, it is of no surprise that the first U.S. state capitol building I visited was that of my home state. The seat of government on Smith Hill was designed in the Neoclassical style by the firm McKim, Mead & White. Its distinguished dome is the fourth-largest self-supporting dome in the world, preceded by only St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, and the Taj Mahal in India. The dome is topped by an 11-foot statue called The Independent Man, which was created by George Brewster and installed in 1899. The Independent Man is a fitting symbol for Rhode Island: it was founded by banished religious leader Roger Williams, was the first of the North American colonies to declare its independence from Great Britain, and was the last of those 13 colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution, not doing so until more than a year into George Washington’s first term as president.

In 2002, my cousin Matthew was a docent at the state house, and he led us around on a private tour that July. Here I am practicing my public speaking skills at a microphone in an empty chamber.

Photographed July 8, 2002.
Photographed June 28, 2013.

For an extended period Rhode Islanders rotated their capital city between five municipalities: Bristol, East Greenwich, Newport, Providence, and South Kingstown. The rotation was reduced to just Newport and Providence in 1854, and then to solely Providence in 1901. The building was under construction from 1895 to 1904 and is composed largely of Georgia marble — 327,000 cubic feet of it.

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Rhode Island College Library. “Rhode Island State House from Prospect Terrace Park.” Accessed February 9, 2024. https://digitalcommons.ric.edu/smolski_images/30/.

Secretary of State and the Rhode Island General Assembly. The Rhode Island State House: A self-guided tour. Providence: Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, 2014. https://www.sos.ri.gov/assets/downloads/documents/self-guided-state-house-tour-brochure.pdf.

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