Monday, April 1, 2013

Texas State Capitol

The previous Texas State Capitol building, at this same location, burned down in 1881.  The new building designed by architect Elijah E. Myers was completed in 1888.

The contractor hired to do the job was Mattheas Schnell of Chicago. He was paid with three million acres of land in the Texas Panhandle.  A special railroad line was built to carry the pink granite from Granite Mountain, near Marble Falls, to downtown Austin.  The stone was donated for free.  Stonecutters were hired and brought over from Scotland.  Limestone was also used in the construction, and the roof is made of 85,000 square feet of copper.  

The grand scale was achieved quickly and economically using cast iron for structural elements like the massive supportive columns and stairs.  The decorative oak millwork came from Michigan, the exterior dome from Belgium.  The floors, originally tile, were replaced with beautiful terrazzo in the mid-1900's.  The dramatic interior dome is 218 feet high with a floor design of six decorative seals summarizing the history of Texas. The exterior height of the dome is 311 feet - which is seven feet higher than the nation's Capitol in Washington D.C..  It is the largest state Capitol in the United States.

The Goddess of Liberty crowns the peak.  The original Goddess of Liberty was placed on the capitol dome in four pieces in February 1888. It stood nearly 16 feet tall and weighed an estimated 2,000 pounds and was made of zinc.  It was replaced with an aluminum duplicate in 1986.

By the 1950's, there was already a great amount of overcrowding:  Lobbies and hallways were used as offices, typing pools and dining areas.  Finally, construction began in 1990 to extend the Capitol offices by excavating on the northern grounds.  This now houses a subterranean office plaza with over 600,000 s.f. under the Capitol grounds which includes a cafeteria, a gift shop, and generous sculptural skylights that transform it into a bright and friendly mall.

Texas State Capitol
Tel: 512-463-0063
11th St. and Congress Ave.  Austin, TX 78701

Tours are generally 45 minutes in length and are available during the following times: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Saturday, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm, Sunday, Noon - 3:30 pm.  Capitol tours are conducted daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter. Reservations for groups of 10 or more should be made in advance by calling 512.305.8400.