Kurt's Historic Sites

336

U.S. State Capitol Buildings

Alabama 

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 14, 181922nd admitted19th visited

Photographed June 10, 2013.

The first U.S. state alphabetically is Alabama. Admitted into the Union in 1819, its capital city has been Montgomery since 1846. The current state capitol building is of Greek Revival design and was constructed in the early 1850s. Like all other structures in Alabama, the capitol is situated on the native homeland of Indigenous Muscogee Creek Peoples. In 1834, the 20,000 Muscogee Creeks who remained in Alabama after white colonization and settlement were removed and forced to traverse the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory.

The capitol in Montgomery has been the setting for critical moments in U.S. history related to the treatment of Black Americans. On January 11, 1861, citing threats posed by President-elect Abraham Lincoln to those who held power in slaveholding states, the Alabama State Government passed an ordinance of secession. In the same building the following month, former U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis was elected provisional president of the Confederate States of America. He was sworn into office on the capitol’s portico nine days later on the spot where this gold star is now inlaid. The Confederacy moved its capital to Richmond a few months later, once Virginia seceded from the Union as well. A statue of Davis was erected in a prominent spot on the grounds in 1940. Sculptures of Confederate figures were erected in the Jim Crow segregation era predominantly to intimidate Black people.

Photographed June 10, 2013.
Photographed June 10, 2013.

In 1965, a century after the Civil War, the Alabama State Capitol was the final destination of the Selma-to-Montgomery March — a 54-mile sojourn that successfully pushed for the creation of a Voting Rights Act to prohibit racially-motivated voter discrimination. 25,000 protestors participated in the final stretch of the demonstration on March 25,1965, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was among the orators who delivered an address when they reached the capitol.

The wondrous interior dome of the Alabama State Capitol. Though the governor has an office in the capitol, the Senate and House of Representatives meet in a totally separate state house building located across the street. Alabama is the only state whose legislature does not hold sessions in its capitol. There was controversy in spring 2020 when Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh briefly supported using $200 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to build a new statehouse (again, not this capitol building). The idea was soon scuttled.

Photographed June 10, 2013.

Connecticut

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
January 9, 1788 5th admitted 14th visited

Photographed January 1, 2011.

Built of marble from Connecticut and granite from the neighboring state of Rhode Island, the current capitol in Hartford has been housing meetings of the state legislature since 1879. The structure cost $2,532,524.43 to complete. Its plans were designed by architect Richard M. Upjohn, while James G. Batterson was retained to oversee the construction.

This statue of Founding Father Oliver Wolcott graces the exterior of the capitol. Wolcott represented Connecticut in the Second Continental Congress and he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He subsequently served as Connecticut’s lieutenant governor and then its governor.

Photographed January 1, 2011.
Photographed January 1, 2011.

Seeing the Connecticut State Capitol and its gold leaf dome was a grand way to start the new year in 2011. My father and I also visited a number of gravesites throughout the Constitution State that day, including the aforementioned Oliver Wolcott and acclaimed actress Katharine Hepburn.

Delaware

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 7, 1787 1st admitted 22nd visited

Photographed May 24, 2019.

On my return drive to Rhode Island from Delaware in May 2019, I stopped in Dover to see my first new state capitol in nearly four years. Because of its design, a person might think Legislative Hall has been around since the 1700s. However, it was actually built in the 1930s in the Colonial Revival style. The statehouse that was used prior to its construction is now a museum.

I was alone on this journey, but after I struck up a conversation with my impressive tour guide I asked if she would be willing to step outside to take my photograph for documentation. If I recall, posing with the Legislative Hall sign was her idea.

Photographed May 24, 2019.
Photographed May 24, 2019.

The halls of Legislative Hall struck me as more narrow and compact than other capitols, possibly due to its Colonial Revival design. I liked the shade of green in its paint scheme.

The chamber of the Delaware State Senate. Unfortunately, a lot of my pictures from this trip came out hazy despite me cleaning the camera lens, and I am not sure why.

Photographed May 24, 2019.

Georgia

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
January 2, 1788 4th admitted 25th visited

Photographed March 26, 2022.

My visit to the capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia, holds special meaning to me for two reasons. Firstly, it was my 25th state capitol, which therefore meant my journey to all 50 sites was halfway completed. Secondly, I saw the state house with my friend Angela, whom I was visiting with for the weekend. We had not seen each other since our internship days in Washington, D.C., seven summers prior. Credit for this image of me with the Georgia capitol belongs to Angela.

The capitol building — and all of Atlanta — occupies part of the homeland of the Muscogee Nation, which was forced westward through land cessions to the Federal Government. This marker recounts the site’s history post-colonization, including its time as an encampment for Union troops and the construction of the state house in the 1880s. Several markers, erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1920, give the history of the Battle of Atlanta and related events, as seen from the viewpoint of that organization’s Atlanta chapter.

Photographed March 26, 2022.
Photographed March 26, 2022.

The grounds of the capitol in Atlanta are decorated with statues that commemorate primarily Georgia politicians, from liberals like President Jimmy Carter and Governor Ellis Arnall, to segregationists like Senator Richard B. Russell and Governor Eugene Talmadge. The sculpture shown here is titled Expelled Because of Color. Language on a plaque beside it, provided by sculptor John Riddle, explains the memorial is “dedicated to the memory of the 33 Black state legislators who were elected yet expelled from the Georgia House because of their color in 1868.” Riddle continues that “[t]he cinder block forms at the base of the sculpture symbolize the building of Black political awareness and self-representation in Georgia. Our enslavement, our role in the Revolutionary War, the Black Church, our labor and the right to vote are components of these Black [Georgians’] struggle from the slave ship to the state house.” The base includes the names of the 33 Black state legislators from the Reconstruction Era who were cast out, such as James Sims, Alexander Stone, Monday Floyd, and Tunis G. Campbell, Sr.

Made by sculptor Martin Dawe and dedicated on August 28, 2017, this statue represents one of Georgia’s most noted residents: Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr. King was born in Atlanta, a little over a mile from the state house. The house of worship he presided over, Ebenezer Baptist Church, is located close by as well, as is the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The organization was founded in 1968 by Dr. King’s widow, activist Coretta Scott King. The Kings are entombed on the premises of the King Center.

Photographed March 26, 2022.

Indiana

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 11, 1816 19th admitted 6th visited

Photographed April 20, 2010.

After we paid our respects at the gravesite of former Vice President Schuyler Colfax in South Bend, my father and I drove down to Indianapolis to see the Hoosier State’s capitol building. The facility is made of Indiana limestone and white oak. Construction on it was completed in 1888.

This historical marker gives a brief overview of the history of Indiana’s capital cities and statehouses. Corydon was the capital from its admission into the union in 1816 until 1825, when it was moved to Indianapolis.

Photographed April 20, 2010.
Photographed April 20, 2010.

With my predisposition to presidential history, I was sure to photograph this historical marker on the capitol grounds that details Abraham Lincoln’s posthumous stop in Indianapolis. Indiana was the second state Lincoln lived in, after his family relocated from Kentucky. The statue atop the plinth in the distance is of former Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks. The real Hendricks is located five miles away at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Four groupings of limestone statues comprise The Westward Journey and stand atop the south portico of the statehouse. They were created by artist Herman Carl Mueller. The Indigenous figures at the artwork’s left hand side represent the natives who once had the land all to themselves, while the three more eastern groupings symbolize the white settlers who came westward across the North American continent and, in turn, forced tribes even farther west.

Photographed April 20, 2010.

Iowa

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 28, 1846 29th admitted 17th visited

Photographed February 24, 2012.

The cornerstone of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines was laid in 1873, and over the ensuing decade-plus of construction it took $2,873,294.59, to complete it. The building’s crowning achievement is its 23-karat gold leaf dome, which tops out at 275 feet above the ground. The statehouse visitors guide says the layers of gold leafing on the dome are “so thin that 250,000 sheets pressed together would measure only one inch thick.”

This image shows the view of downtown Des Moines from the steps of the state capitol. A sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad, is out of view on the right.

Photographed February 24, 2012.
Photographed February 24, 2012.

The interior domes are often the most appealing features of capitol buildings for me, and that was once again the case in Iowa. The banner stretched across it bears the Grand Army of the Republican emblem and represents Iowans’ efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

The model in this display case is of the USS Iowa, a World War II era battleship sponsored by Second Lady Ilo Wallace. Just a few hours before, my father and I tracked down the grave plot belonging to Mrs. Wallace and her husband, the 33rd vice president.

Photographed February 24, 2012.

Kansas

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
January 29, 1861 34th admitted 4th visited

Photographed August 11, 2009.

I snapped this photo of the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka as twilight fell in August 2009. From there, my father and I ate dinner at the now-defunct Kansan Grille and soldiered on to Abilene, where the next morning we explored the presidential library of Dwight D. Eisenhower. After that, we were able to return to Topeka and go inside the capitol before we continued eastward to Missouri.

On their Roadside Presidents mobile app, the folks behind Roadside America bill this sculpture inside the Kansas Capitol as “Statue of Ike as Mr. Clean.” They write the resemblance is “uncanny” due to the “bald head, square jaw, formless clothing, even the beefy arms folded across the chest.” It is unlikely that sculptor Peter Felten used the product mascot as a model when he created it in 1981, but they have a point, “minus the earring.” Roadside America may be vindicated if a cleaning agent is unearthed from the time capsule limestone Eisenhower looms over, which is to remain sealed until the 34th president’s 200th birthday on October 14, 2090. 

Photographed August 12, 2009.
Photographed August 12, 2009.

Another Kansan commemorated in the statehouse is aviator Amelia Earhart, who was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison. Earhart broke barriers as the first woman to pilot a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Her transatlantic journey took place in May 1932, when she was 34 years old. Earhart was one of the most famous Americans at the time she and navigator Fred Noonan attempted to circumnavigate the globe in summer 1937. The Lockheed Model 10-E Electra they were flying in disappeared near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937. The pair was declared dead in 1939.

A sign on one of the capitol doors made it clear that firearms were prohibited in the building.

Photographed August 12, 2009.

Kentucky

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
June 1, 1792 15th admitted 7th visited

Photographed April 21, 2010.

The dome of the Kentucky State Capitol peaks out from lush leaves in Frankfort.  The structure currently in use is the fourth building to serve as the Bluegrass State’s capitol. Ground broke on the statehouse in 1904, and it was dedicated in 1910. The construction, landscaping, and other facets of its completion cost a total of $1,820,000.

Kentucky is one of four U.S. states that are listed, well… not as states but as commonwealths. The other three are Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is no legal or governmental difference between a state and a commonwealth.

Photographed April 21, 2010.
Photographed April 21, 2010.

Kentucky was a border state during the Civil War — a state which continued to utilize the institution of slavery but did not secede from the United States. Kentuckians’ allegiances were split between the Union and the Confederacy. In response to recurrent attacks by CSA guerillas, the person in charge of Kentucky, Major General Stephen G. Burbridge, issued a controversial order in July 1864. General Order 59 commanded that for each unarmed Union citizen slain by Confederate guerillas, four CSA prisoners would be executed. For example, after Union supporter Robert Graham was killed in November, four Kentucky Confederates were shot. The website of the Kentucky Historical Society asserts that, with Burbridge’s order, “bad seeds had been sown between the Federal [G]overnment and many people in Kentucky, who were already upset over Lincoln’s change in war aims [which had changed from just preserving the Union to also abolishing slavery]. A combination of these factors and others led many Kentuckians to embrace the Lost Cause during Reconstruction and the years beyond.” This marker, which uses language critical of the executions, was placed near the capitol in 1962.

Not all states provide official residences for their governors, but Kentucky is one that does. The current Governor’s Mansion has housed the commonwealth’s executives since 1914. At the time I took this photograph, the governor of Kentucky was Steve Beshear of the Democratic Party. The mansion was decorated for the annual Kentucky Derby, which was held at the Churchill Downs ten days later. The victor was Super Saver, ridden by jockey Calvin Borel.

Photographed April 21, 2010.
Photographed April 21, 2010.

I snapped this picture from the burial plot of settlers Rebecca and Daniel Boone, situated across the Kentucky River from the capitol building in Frankfort Cemetery. Former Vice President Richard M. Johnson is interred there as well. So are three of the four Confederates who were executed in response to Robert Graham’s death, as described above.

Maine

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
March 15, 1820 23rd admitted 12th visited

Photographed July 1, 2010.

As the United States expanded in the nineteenth century, tension grew between pro-slavery and anti-slavery advocates. Would the “peculiar institution” be permitted in new states and territories, and how would that affect the balance of power in the halls of Congress? In 1820, the status quo was maintained through federal legislation dubbed the Missouri Compromise. It entailed Missouri being admitted as a slave state and the Massachusetts district of Maine entering as a free state. The last part of the agreement arranged that slavery would not be legal in new states formed from Louisiana Purchase land north of the 36°30′ parallel. The Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. When the Civil War erupted a few short years later, Maine was committed to the Union and Missouri was a border state.

Some of my favorite photos from my archives are ones I took at state capitol buildings, and this is among them. This is the view from the Maine State House looking southeast across State Street to Capitol Park. Out of view beyond the trees flows the Kennebec River.

Photographed July 1, 2010.
Photographed July 1, 2010.

The state house in Augusta was designed by architect Charles Bullfinch, and there are similarities between that building and the Massachusetts State House, which Bullfinch designed decades earlier. The Maine State House was completed in 1832.

Maryland

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
April 28, 1788 7th admitted 23rd visited

Photographed June 22, 2021.

The oldest of all the U.S. capitol buildings in continuous use is the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Its original construction began in 1772 and concluded in 1779. Like many capitols, though, it has experienced multiple additions and renovations. This image shows the side of the building that faces northwest. In the foreground is a memorial to jurist Thurgood Marshall, a native Marylander. The central sculpture depicts Marshall before he became the first Black person to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court — as a younger attorney. He faces out toward other statues, seated on benches. One is of Donald Murray, the plaintiff whom Marshall co-represented in the case Murray v. Pearson. Decided in 1936 by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the ruling in Murray v. Pearson forced the University of Maryland Law School to integrate. On another bench — seen on the right hand side of this picture — two bronze figures symbolize children affected by Marshall’s work in Brown v. Board of Education. That landmark U.S. Supreme Court case was a major victory for racial integration nation-wide.

The building’s interior dome is not as decorative as those of most other U.S. capitols, but it is still impressive. According to a sign in the rotunda, the dome rises 113 feet above the floor and looks as it did in the 1790s. Its plasterwork was primarily overseen by local plasterer Thomas Dance. On February 23, 1793 — before the project was completed — Dance fell from the dome to his death. It was completed the following year.

Photographed June 22, 2021.
Photographed June 22, 2021.

The heir to the Second Continental Congress, the Confederation Congress, held its meetings at the Maryland State House in 1783 and 1784, which made it the U.S. Capitol as well. That was where General George Washington tendered his resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, after the conclusion of the American Revolution. Many citizens viewed the war’s foremost figure’s decision to surrender his power and return to private life rather than become a military dictator as a momentous and inspirational occasion that was atypical to much of world history. This statue of Washington was created by the Brooklyn-based StudioEIS in 2014 and stands in the restored Old Senate Chamber, where his resignation took place.

I was accompanied on this state house sojourn by my friend Angelo’s father, Lou, who is like an uncle to me. He was emotionally moved by the statue of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman in the Old House of Delegates Chamber and asked me to photograph them together. This was shortly after Lou inadvertently broke a members/staff-only door on the ground floor of the capitol. Love you, Lou!

Photographed June 22, 2021.

Massachusetts

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
February 6, 1788 6th admitted 15th visited

Photographed February 12, 2017.

I must say I am quite proud of this atmospheric photograph I took of the Massachusetts State House, although the architect, the builders, and nature did most of the work. I just framed the shot and pressed a button on my cellphone.

The Massachusetts State House sits atop Boston’s Beacon Hill, above the nation’s oldest city park, Boston Common. On this occasion, banners were hung from the building’s façade to support two of the city’s professional sports teams, which were competing in the playoffs in their respective leagues. The Celtics soon swept the New York Knicks, but were eliminated in the NBA Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat. The Bruins, on the other hand, proceeded to win their first hockey championship in 39 years.

Photographed April 21, 2011.
Photographed April 21, 2011.

The state house was designed by architect Charles Bullfinch, who is interred in the neighboring community of Cambridge. The dome is its most distinctive feature, but this flair was implemented long after Bullfinch died. When the capitol was first completed in 1798, the dome was covered in leaky wood shingles. It was first gilded in 1874.

On May 29, 1990 — what would have been John F. Kennedy’s 73rd birthday — a sculpture of the Massachusetts native in stride was dedicated on the statehouse grounds. The figure has stood far behind a fence for a number of years, so this was the closest image I could take. To look at the bronze POTUS from closer vantage points and different angles, view this post by my friend Kevin on his Instagram account, @unitedstatuesofamerica. His experience made him resolve not to hop any more fences at government buildings, but he left unscathed and got the photos he wanted.

Photographed April 21, 2011.

Michigan

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
January 26, 1837 26th admitted 5th visited

Photographed April 19, 2010.

In April 2010 I traversed to six state capitols in a five-day span, the first of which was in Lansing, Michigan. Sometimes finding a good place to pose for a photograph with a capitol — or any large structure — can be difficult if you want to showcase the facility in its entirety without yourself being unnoticeable or, conversely, being so prominent in the foreground that you obscure the building. If there is good signage, sometimes it is just much easier to get your picture with that instead. This marker provides an overview of the statehouse’s history and its construction materials, sourced from the Wolverine State.

From the exterior, the capitol’s standout feature is its spired dome, the tip of which is 267 feet from the ground. My father and I spent most of the day at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and by the time we arrived in Lansing in the early evening we did not have the opportunity to go inside to look at the inner dome from the rotunda. I will note that it looks gorgeous from what I have seen on the internet.

Photographed April 19, 2010.
Photographed April 19, 2010.

Zoomed in on the Michigan State Capitol dome. In the subsequent days my father and I also stopped at the state houses in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

This pediment beneath the dome is decorated with sculptures by Prussian-born artist Herman Wehner, with contributions from Lewis T. Ives. The seated figure at the left represents agriculture, and the one at the right symbolizes commerce. The central figure is the personification of Michigan itself. A report by the Building Commissioners from September 30, 1876 describes the statue and its culturally insensitive symbolism: “[…] Michigan is represented by a female figure in Indian costume, casting away the emblems of barbarism, a scalping knife and tomahawk, and taking up civilization and education as emblemized by a globe and collection of books at either hand.”  

Photographed April 19, 2010.

Minnesota

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
May 11, 185832nd admitted20th visited

Photographed January 11, 2014.

A statue of former Minnesota governor John A. Johnson stands near the front of the capitol building in St. Paul. Johnson was a Democrat and died in office in 1909 at age 48. He is accompanied by figures who signify industries that were popular in Minnesota during Johnson’s three gubernatorial terms and beyond: mining, farming, manufacturing, and lumberjacking. The piece was done by sculptor Andrew O’Connor in 1912.

The interior plaster dome of the capitol, which cost $4.5 million to construct at the turn of the twentieth century. Over one hundred years later, the state spent $310 million renovating and updating the facility.

Photographed January 11, 2014.
Photographed January 11, 2014

Another view of the rotunda. The capitol was designed by Cass Gilbert and took nine years to build, from 1896 to 1905. Decades later, Gilbert designed the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

The Minnesota State Capitol features the largest self-supporting marble dome on the North American continent, which also places it as the second largest in the world. It is surpassed by only St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Photographed January 11, 2014

New Hampshire

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
June 21, 17889th admitted2nd visited

Photographed February 19, 2005.

The first capitol building I visited apart from the one in my native state was that of New Hampshire, located on North Main Street in Concord. It was designed by architect Stuart J. Park and made predominantly of granite from the northern part of Concord. Costs of labor were reduced by having prison inmates handle the stone cutting, shaping, and facing.

This is the oldest state house in the U.S. where the bodies of the legislature meet in their original chambers. The first legislative sessions were held here in 1819.

Photographed February 19, 2005.
Photographed February 19, 2005.

The lone New Hampshire native to become U.S. president was Franklin Pierce, who was in office from 1853 to 1857. Though he was a northerner, Pierce was sympathetic to the views of whites in the South who wished to expand and perpetuate the institution of slavery. He feared that the actions of abolitionists or those who sought merely to prevent slavery’s expansion would tear the nation in two. History has not treated President Pierce well, but in November 1914 he received a statue on the grounds of the statehouse. It was sculpted by Augustus Lukeman.

New Jersey

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 18, 1787 3rd admitted 10th visited

Photographed April 23, 2010.

One of the final stops on a seven-day road trip was Trenton, New Jersey, where my father and I saw the graves of Founding Fathers George Clymer and David Brearley, in addition to the New Jersey State House. My spider sense was unable to alert me whether or not Governor Chris Christie was in the building.

The New Jersey State House is the third-oldest capitol in use in the nation, although it does not at all resemble what architect Jonathan Doane built in 1792. The capitol has undergone several substantial renovations and additions, including after a fire in 1885. It was then that the dome and rotunda were added.

Photographed April 23, 2010.

New York

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
July 26, 1788 11th admitted 11th visited

Photographed May 22, 2010.

New York: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, and the most populous municipality in the U.S., but not the state capital. The Empire State’s seat of government is 150 miles up the Hudson River from NYC in Albany. This blue and yellow historical marker in front of the New York State Capitol Building recalls that the street was once the location of Fort Frederick. In 1777 during the American Revolution, General John Burgoyne of the British Army intended for his forces to converge with those of generals William Howe and Barry St. Leger at Fort Frederick, overtake the Americans, and split the colonies by controlling Albany and the Hudson River. The Campaign of 1777 was unsuccessful in that regard, as Howe put his focus on Philadelphia, St. Leger retreated to Canada, and Burgoyne surrendered his army at Saratoga.

The construction of the New York State Capitol was a prolonged process. Construction began in 1867, and it was not until 1899 — 32 years later — that it was fully finished. The structure was originally projected to cost $4 million, a number which ballooned to $25 when all was said and done.

Photographed May 22, 2010.
Photographed May 22, 2010.

The prime statuary spot on the capitol grounds is occupied by this equestrian sculpture of General Philip Henry Sheridan. The general and his horse were designed by John Quincy Adams Ward and completed by Daniel Chester French, while the granite base was designed by Henry Bacon. Sheridan, who grew up in Albany, was crucial to the Union’s defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War and was subsequently a key figure in the Indian Wars on the Great Plains. Sheridan was also a leading advocate for the preservation of Yellowstone ahead of its establishment as a national park. A “mighty throng” turned out in October 1916 to see Sheridan’s Albany memorial dedicated. Some people have advocated for its removal due to Sheridan’s role in the massacres of Indigenous tribes in the quest to “win the West,” but no efforts to date have gained enough traction to initiate a change.

North Carolina

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
November 21, 1789 12th admitted 24th visited

Photographed March 20, 2022.

In search of a permanent seat of government in the late 1780s, a committee of the North Carolinian government purchased 1,000 acres of land in Raleigh from plantation owner Joel Lane. The first structure that occupied the site was built from 1792 to 1796 and served as the state house until it was destroyed by a fire in 1831. The current capitol building was constructed on the same lot between 1833 and 1840.

The capitol’s design was largely influenced by the New York architecture firm of Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis. The supervising architect, David Paton, was hired in 1834. When the building was completed in 1840, it cost $532,682.34. According to the North Carolina Historic Sites website, this sum was three times more than the amount of revenue the state generated during that period.

Photographed March 20, 2022.
Photographed March 20, 2022.

Tennessee claims three U.S. presidents: Democrats Andrew JacksonJames K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. The members of this trio were not Tennessean by birth though — all moved there from the Carolinas. Jackson came from the Waxhaw region that straddles North and South Carolina, while Polk came into the world in Pineville, and Johnson was born just two blocks from where the capitol now stands in Raleigh. This sculpture on its grounds is titled Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation. It was created by Charles Keck and unveiled in 1948. It is important to note that Jackson, Polk, and Johnson were all enslavers and that the capitol behind their metal likenesses was built partially through the forced labor of enslaved people. Multiple monuments to Confederates who rebelled against the United States in order to keep slavery unimpeded were removed in June 2020.

Another sculpture on the grounds commemorates Charles Duncan McIver, a leading figure in North Carolina education movements in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was among several groups and prominent advocates who convinced the state legislature to create an academy to educate women. McIver then served as inaugural president of the institution that was the fruit of those labors, the State Normal and Industrial School for Girls. The school subsequently became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Photographed March 20, 2022.

Ohio

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
February 19, 1803 17th admitted 8th visited

Photographed April 21, 2010.

This historical marker is planted outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. The building underwent an extensive construction period, with its cornerstone being laid in 1839 and the finishing touches orchestrated in 1861.

With no graves in Ohio left on my agenda on this particular trip in April 2010, my father determined he wanted to continue driving east and try to find a place to sleep in West Virginia instead of Columbus. Therefore, I had to make due with nighttime pictures outside the statehouse. This was the best of the bunch.

Photographed April 21, 2010.

Pennsylvania

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 12, 1787 2nd admitted 9th visited

Photographed April 22, 2010.

Philadelphia was once the capital of the United States, but today it is no longer even the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. State officials relocated the seat of government to Lancaster in 1799 and then to Harrisburg in 1812, where it has remained. Harrisburg has seen multiple state houses in that time, with the current one being constructed between 1902 and 1906. It cost $13 million to build and furnish the capitol. Architect Joseph Huston designed it in the Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Revival styles. Its distinctive green dome rises up 272 feet and weighs 52 million pounds.

A statue named Commonwealth is perched atop the dome. The allegorical figure’s right arm is outstretched, while her left hand holds a staff topped by an eagle. The gilded sculpture, created by Roland Hinton Perry, is shy of 15 feet tall. 

Photographed April 22, 2010.
Photographed April 22, 2010.

The hypnotic inner dome, as seen from the rotunda. I think this is my favorite of the capitol domes I have seen in person thus far.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol was dedicated on October 4, 1906, with President Theodore Roosevelt in attendance. The chief executive was mighty impressed by the state house and proclaimed, “This is the handsomest building I ever saw.” A tablet inlaid in the floor denotes where Roosevelt stood on the day of the dedication.

Photographed April 22, 2010.

Rhode Island

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
May 29, 1790 13th admitted 1st 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 a member of my family was a docent at the state house, and he led us around on a private tour. 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.

Tennessee

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
June 1, 1796 16th admitted 3rd visited

Photographed June 11, 2013.

The Tennessee State Capitol is a Greek Revival building designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland. Its cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1845 and it was completed in 1859. The statue in the foreground of this image is of the seventh U.S. president, Major General Andrew Jackson. It is a copy of the original, which was erected at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. in 1853. Other castings of this sculpture by Clark Mills are located in Jacksonville, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Architect William Strickland died in 1854 — while the Tennessee Capitol was still under construction — and was entombed in his final project’s north façade, in accordance with his wishes.

Photographed July 22, 2006.
Photographed June 11, 2013.

Just as the capitol was designed by Strickland, so was the tomb of former President James K. Polk and former First Lady Sarah Childress Polk on the grounds. It is positioned roughly in line with the equestrian statue of General Jackson and a sculpture of the third chief executive from the Volunteer State, Andrew Johnson. Other statues that are on the grounds depict Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Alvin York and Sam Davis, “the Boy Hero of the Confederacy.”

Texas

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
December 29, 1845 28th admitted 18th visited

Photographed April 18, 2012.

The saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is hyperbolic, but one thing in the Lone Star State is the biggest for sure — its capitol. The Texas State Capitol surpasses all other U.S. state houses in total area, and it is even slightly taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The groundbreaking ceremony for this massive project was held in March 1882, and the finishing touches were applied in December 1888.

The capitol and its grounds are situated “on the square originally selected as the site of the Capitol of the Republic of Texas,” per the website of the Texas House of Representatives. This photograph showcases the capitol’s flower garden dedicated to beautification advocate Lady Bird Johnson, who was first lady of the U.S. from 1963 to 1969.

Photographed April 18, 2012.
Photographed April 18, 2012.

Even by lying down on the floor, I was not able to zoom out wide enough with our digital camera to capture the entirety of the dome’s interior. The building was designed by Elijah E. Myers, who also designed the state houses in Michigan and Colorado.

Texas became a U.S. state in 1845 but seceded shortly thereafter in 1861, charging northern states of attempting to acquire “sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.” Even though the rebellious states of the Confederacy were defeated in the ensuing Civil War and chattel slavery was abolished, the sentiments of secession were not squashed for many white southerners. During the Jim Crow era of segregation and oppression, large quantities of CSA monuments were erected across the U.S. That included this monument on the Texas Capitol grounds, placed in 1903. Confederate President Jefferson Davis stands at its pinnacle, surrounded by figures representative of the CSA’s infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy. The text on its base peddles the false and revisionist Lost Cause narrative that is complementary to the Confederacy. It declares the Confederate dead “died for states rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The people of the South, animated by the Spirit of 1776, to preserve their rights, withdrew from the Federal Compact in 1861. The North resorted to coercion. The South, against overwhelming numbers and resources, fought until exhausted.” There have been calls to have this dangerously-inaccurate monument removed from the capitol grounds, to no avail as of yet.

Photographed April 18, 2012.

Vermont

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
March 4, 1791 14th admitted 13th visited

Photographed July 2, 2010.

I mentioned in the section for the Maine State House that capitol buildings have been the settings of some of my favorite photographs I have snapped. This is the state house picture I am most fond of. Montpelier, Vermont, is sublime, and I love the light-hued stone of the Greek Revival building nestled against the valley’s dark green trees, with the foreground accentuated by warm-colored flowers. The gilded dome shining in the bright blue sky with just a hint of clouds in the corner, too… I am grateful I had the opportunity to photograph the capitol under such auspicious conditions.

Since 1858 Vermont’s capitol has been topped by a representation of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility. The first iteration was done in 1858 by Larkin Mead, who went on to sculpt statuary for the tomb of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois. Mead’s Ceres was made of pine wood and rotted by the 1930s. It was removed and replaced by a figure carved by the statehouse’s sergeant-at-arms, Dwight Dwinell. Dwinell’s creation is shown in this image. It too has been replaced now. The third version of Ceres was made by Chris Miller, who carved the 15-foot figure from laminated mahogany with some of the same tools Mead wielded in 1858. Miller’s Ceres was installed on November 30, 2018.

Photographed July 2, 2010.
Photographed July 2, 2010.

The plaque mounted scarily above my head in this picture reads, “High water mark ——— November 3-4, 1927.” Preceded by an unusually wet October, the early days of November brought torrential rains to the state. On the evening of November 3rd, seven inches of precipitation fell in a six-hour span. The accompanying flood was disastrous to infrastructure and life, taking out over 1,200 bridges, damaging railroads and roadways, and leaving 9,000 Vermonters homeless. Many people were injured, with Lieutenant Governor S. Hollister Jackson among the 84 killed.

Vermont was a leading state in the quest for marriage equality. This two-sided sign details the steps the government of the Green Mountain State took to recognize LGBTQ+ relationships at the turn of the twenty-first century. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legally recognize same-sex couples when it passed a law allowing for civil unions. The text recounts corresponding events dating back to 1999, concluding with 2009 on the reverse side and noting that, through legislation, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage that September. That was six years before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed same-sex marriage rights with its decision in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. The marker was placed at the statehouse in 2016.

Photographed October 12, 2019.

Virginia

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
June 25, 178810th admitted21st visited

Photographed June 28, 2015.

Only one U.S. state capitol building was designed by a U.S. president. Thomas Jefferson and architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau designed the hilltop structure, which held its first legislative sessions in 1788. Its structural and aesthetic influences were the Italian baroque style used by architect Andrea Palladio and the Maison Carrée temple in Nimes, France.

I enjoyed my time at the state house soaking in its history, although admittedly I was not thrilled that one of the other guests on my tour — a professed Canadian, interestingly enough — was wearing a bandana emblazoned with the Army of Northern Virginia’s battle flag. While today it is popularly believed that this design was the official CSA flag, it was not — only the battle flag of one segment of the Confederate Army. The flag now most-associated with the South and the CSA did not gain widespread use until the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and white backlash to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

Photographed June 28, 2015.
Photographed June 28, 2015.

The centerpiece of the rotunda is Jean-Antoine Houdon’s marble statue of George Washington. Its visage was based off of a plaster life mask Houdon took from the subject. It is perhaps the most accurate artist’s rendition of the pre-photography president. Many copies of Houdon’s work are distributed throughout the nation. The original in the rotunda is surrounded by busts of the other U.S. presidents born in Virginia: Jefferson, James MadisonJames MonroeWilliam Henry HarrisonJohn TylerZachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson. On the tour I took, the docent said scenes from the 2012 film Lincoln were partially filmed in the state house and that the bust of Wilson was temporarily relocated from the rotunda to maintain era accuracy since he was eight years old at the time the production was set. However, a list of the movie’s goofs on IMDb maintains Wilson’s likeness was not removed and can be seen in the film, thereby making it an anachronism. I will try to verify this one way or the other the next time I view Lincoln.

By George! Of no surprise, the Father of His Country has more than one statue at the capitol of his home state. This equestrian sculpture stands vigil on the north side of the state house grounds. Allegorical female figures are positioned on the lowest level of the base, and Washington’s contemporaries from the American Revolution stand on the second tier: Virginians George Mason, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Andrew Lewis, and John Marshall.

Photographed June 28, 2015.
Photographed June 28, 2015.

The monument occupies the site where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the regularly-elected President of the Confederate States of America in 1862 (prior to that he was its provisional president for a year). The inauguration was held on February 22nd — George Washington’s 130th birthday anniversary. Though the monument was not completed until 1869, six years prior the Confederate government approved a joint resolution to use its equestrian portrait of Washington in the CSA seal. During the Civil War, both North and South lay claim to Washington, with each side claiming itself and not the other faction to be the heir of the first president’s legacy and ideals.

Wisconsin

Admission to the UnionSequence in AdmissionSequence in Capitols I Have Visited
May 29, 184830th admitted16th visited

Photographed February 23, 2012.

On February 27, 1904, a fire destroyed much of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison. The legislature subsequently started the process of having a new state house constructed. The $7.2 million structure that followed, pictured here, was completed in 1917.

A glimpse of the rotunda, with a portion of the dome peaking out above. This mosaic of the personification of Liberty was created by artist Kenyon Cox.

Photographed February 23, 2012.
Photographed February 23, 2012.

The Wisconsin State Capitol was the first of two state houses my father and I visited on this brief trip to the Midwest. The other was Iowa’s in Des Moines, which we explored the following day.

In late spring and summer 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer killed an unarmed Black man named George Floyd, protests for racial justice occurred throughout the United States and in pockets of the world. Of the 7,750 Black Lives Matter-related demonstrations in the U.S. tracked between May 26th and August 22nd, data shows 93% did not involve “violence or destructive activity.” An exception to the norm was at the Wisconsin Capitol. On June 23rd, with tensions heightened because of a local arrest, some of the building’s windows were smashed, a state lawmaker was assaulted, and two sculptures were damaged. Those were an allegorical statue called Forward and a bronze representation of Wisconsinite Hans Christian Heg, pictured here. Heg was an abolitionist who served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was killed in 1863 at the Battle of Chickamauga. His statue was erected in 1926 and stood for 94 years before it was toppled, beheaded, and discarded into Lake Monona. Explaining why protestors toppled sculptures of an abolitionist and a figure representing progress, activist Ebony Anderson-Carter stated, “We’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards.” Gesturing toward Forward’s empty plinth, she continued, “So, this don’t need to be here until we’re ready to move forward.” Forward and Heg were restored and reinstalled in September 2021.

Photographed February 23, 2012.

INTERACTIVE MAP OF State capitols visited

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