Sunday, November 15, 2015

North Carolina Capitol

Last year we decided to add U.S, state capitols to our to do list.  Since Raleigh was not too far out of our way when we left Hatteras, we headed that way.  We stayed at the North Carolina State Fair- grounds which is a good location for exploring the whole area.
The capitol was completed in 1840 after the original building burned.  It was built in the Greek Revival style so popular at the time.  When we entered we were told to expect a very plain building because of the Scottish heritage of the government officials of the day.  This sure proved to be true, no gold leaf, no ornate trim, no stained glass windows, no portraits of state government officials, just a simple, functional building.
The reception area outside the governor's office is decorated with things about the current governor, Pat McCrory.  While other parts of the government have moved to newer buildings, the governor's office is still here.
The House of Representatives, called the House of Commons until 1868, has 120 members.  The desks were made by a local Raleigh cabinetmaker, William Thomas.  The painting of Washington is a copy of a Gilbert Stuart portrait.  The Secession Ordinance of 1861 was signed in this chamber.
Nanc on the stairs to the second floor.  You can see where the steps are chipped and worn.
The chips are from the wheelbarrow the local slaves used to transport wood to the many fireplaces on the upper floors of the building.  Along the walls where this exhibit is located are four plaques commemorating when North Carolina passed four Constitutional amendments.  The first three, the 13th which banned slavery, the 14th which made former slaves and all people born in the US citizens, and the 15th which gave the vote to Black males were passed in the late 1860's as required before old confederate states were allowed back in to the Union.  Interestingly, the 19th which gave women the right to vote and which became the law of the land in 1920 was not ratified in North Carolina until 1971.
Like the rest of the building the 97 foot high dome is very plain.  There are small alcoves around the balcony on the second floor which indicate they may have expected to place statues there, but they are all empty.
In the rotunda is a statue of George Washington dressed as a Roman general.  The original, done by Italian artist Antonio Canova in 1816, was destroyed when the old capitol burned in 1831.  This is a copy that was done in 1970 from a plaster cast of the original. 
This lithograph of Marquis de Lafayette viewing the original Washington statue in 1825 is the only known interior view of the old capitol.
The Senate chamber has fifty desks that were built by the same cabinetmaker who did the ones in the House chamber.  The above lithograph hangs here.  Both the House and the Senate now meet in a new legislative building near the capitol.  
This room on the third floor served as the State Library from 1840 to 1888.  It has been restored to its 1850's appearance.  During the Civil War North Carolina's original copy of the Bill Of Rights was kept here.  When General Sherman's troop occupied Raleigh at the end of the war a Union soldier stole it.  Here is a link to a story about the state with the help of the FBI getting it back in 2014.
Also on the third floor was the state Geologist's Office.  This room served as the supreme court chamber for three years before it was moved to the first floor.    
There are a few statues and memorials on the capitol grounds.  This one is dedicated to the three North Carolina born citizens who became president, James Polk, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson. 
As we were told, the building is very plain.  That said, it also appears more like the original building than any capitol we have toured.


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Great story, we can see rocks in the Geology office!

heyduke50 said...

definitely the drabbest state capitol we have visited as well... but we did like the historical displays

PalmsRV said...

I thought the statue of the president's looked familiar, we saw the plaster cast that they made it from in the Hendersonville city hall.