Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pennsylvania Capitol

We continued our quest to tour U.S. state capitols with a stop in Harrisburg to see Pennsylvania's.  We have been here before but had never taken a tour.  We have been looking forward to this stop since the guide for the South Carolina tour told us he thought it was the most beautiful he had ever seen.  After the tour we have to agree, the building is a work of art.
This building, which was dedicated in 1906, has a 272 foot, 52 million pound dome modeled after St. Peters Basilica in Rome.  It was built in the American Renaissance style at a cost of $13,000,000.  Different chambers in the capitol were built in different European styles.  The walls are Vermont granite and the roof is covered with green terracotta.   
The 17 foot doors weighing one ton each feature portraits of the people who were responsible for the building's construction.
As you walk into the rotunda the first feature you see is the Carrara marble grand staircase that was inspired by the staircase at the Paris Opera.
The floor in the rotunda and halls are covered with nearly 400 mosaics showing the state's history, animals, industries, occupations and modes of transportation.  The tiles are in chronological order starting from the time of the Indians to the early 1900 modern inventions, the telephone and automobile.
Looking up to the dome above the rotunda.  Artist Edwin Austin Abbey painted the four medallions representing art, law, religion and science.
The murals under the dome show Pennsylvania's major industries.  This one, The Spirit of Vulcan, represents the steel industry.
The Spirit of Light, featuring women carrying flames with oil derricks in the background, celebrates the state's oil industry.
Science Revealing the Treasures of the Earth, shows men digging coal out of the ground.  The fourth mural shows William Penn's ship coming to Pennsylvania.
The senate has 50 members who serve in a chamber that is designed in the French Renaissance style with green marble walls with gold leaf.  The paintings, done by Violet Oakley, show scenes in the state's history including Washington in Philadelphia in 1787 when the Constitution was written and Lincoln giving his address in Gettysburg in 1863. 
Another painting, A Slave Ship Ransom, shows a Pennsylvania  Quaker paying the ship's captain to buy all the people on the ship to free them.  
The Supreme Court chamber in the capitol is one of three places the court meets.  They also meet in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
On the walls of the chamber are 16 paintings by Violet Oakley called "The Opening of the Book of Law".  They show law givers throughout history.  In the center of the four chandeliers are four bronze statues of ancient law givers.  
There are 203 members in the House of Representatives who serve in an Italian Renaissance chamber.  The large mural behind the Speaker's podium in the chamber, The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, was also painted by Edwin Austin Abbey.  It includes many people who played important roles in the state's history including William Penn, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Danial Boone and many others. 
There are 24 stained glass windows in the legislative chambers that were created by William B. Van Ingen, a student of Louis Tiffany.  They are all framed in gold leaf and depict various themes such as commerce, education, history, justice, liberty and peace.  
In the governor's reception room there are a series of paintings by Violet Oakley depicting the history of religious freedom in England, the rise of the Quakers and William Penn's role in those events.
The East Wing was added in 1987 to house legislative offices. It has a mini-domed skylight to blend with the domes on the original building and the exterior is covered with granite from the same quarry as the main building.
On the dome of the capitol is the 17' 8" statue, Commonwealth, by Roland Perry representing Pennsylvania. 
The visitor center has this unique machine to show how a bill becomes a law.  Much more interesting than the old movie we watched in civics class when I was as a kid.  We may be prejudice because we are from Pennsylvania, but of the fifteen capitols we have toured this is without a doubt the most beautiful and meets architect Joseph Huston's vision to build a Palace of Art.   

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