Sunday, October 16, 2016

Michigan Capitol Building Tour

We have been in this part of Michigan several times for RV service but never toured the Michigan capitol. With this one we have now toured 21 capitols.
This building is Michigan's third capitol building.  Construction started in 1872 and the building was completed in 1878 at the cost of $1,427,738.78.  It was built in the Neoclassical style that includes both Greek and Roman architecture.
In the rotunda on the first floor is a display of replicas of battle flags carried by Michigan regiments during the Civil War.  The originals are now in the Michigan Historical Museum where they are being preserved.
Portrait of Gerald Ford, the only Michiganer to serve as president.  He is also the only person to become president without being elected as part of the presidential ticket.  He was appointed as vice president when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign and then became president when Richard Nixon resigned.  He lost his reelection bid to Jimmy Carter.
On the walls of the rotunda on the second and third floors is the Gallery of Governors.  Each governor pays for their portrait.  On the left is the most unusual Governor, John Swainson who at 35 was the youngest ever elected.  He deliberately had his painted with the unfinished look because at his young age he felt his career was unfinished.
There is only room for 14 portraits in the rotunda, so as new portraits are added the oldest one is moved to another location in the building.  Pictured right is Jennifer Granholm who was born in Canada and served as governor from 2003 to 2011. 
The dome is 160 feet above the floor of the rotunda.  The eight paintings depict the muses of Greek and Roman mythology and represent art, agriculture, law, science, justice, industry, commerce and education.  The dome and walls of the capitol have over nine acres of hand painted surfaces.  Until the renovation in the early 90's, most of the walls had been painted white covering the original works of art.  Today there is an artist on staff to touch up the beautiful paintings as needed. 
The floor of the rotunda is made with 976 pieces of 5/8 inch thick glass that is lit by lights from the ground floor.  It is designed to give the illusion of a bowl from above.
The House of Representatives has 110 members who are elected to two-year terms.  This is another wonderful example of the 1990's restoration. The walls of the chamber had been painted white, covering the original paint.  Great effort was made to insure the new colors where the same as the old.   All of the desks are original with new wiring for modern computers.
The ceilings of both the House and Senate chambers have etched glass panels.  In the House they are the state seals of all 50 states.  Before the restoration they had been pieces of wood painted white. 
The detail goes all the way to the door hinges and knobs which have the Michigan state seal that includes the state motto in Latin and translates to, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."   Pictured in the background is the marble floor which contains many fossils.  We have seen this in other capitols.
The rostrum is for the presiding official who, in Michigan, is the lieutenant governor. Like the U.S. Senate they only vote if there is a tie. In both chambers the members are seated by party with Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right (how appropriate) facing the rostrum.
Since we were on a self guided tour we lucked out and were allowed on the rostrum to gavel in the session. You never know what you may get to do on these tours.
The Senate has 38 members who are elected to four-year terms. The desks in this chamber were also restored and the floor was raised to accommodate the wiring.   Each desk here has a large chair for the senator and a smaller one facing back for their secretary or assistant.
The old Supreme Court Chamber, now the meeting room for the Senate Appropriations Committee, has also been restored to its original grandeur.
There is only one statue on the grounds of a specific person. It is Austin Blair who was the Civil War Governor. Blair was very popular long after is term ended in 1864 and was a great hero until his death in 1894. Left is a catalpa tree that was growing on the grounds when the building was dedicated almost 130 years ago. This was one of the nicest capitols we have toured, especially since it has been restored to its original appearance.


Jan Mains said...

We love the Capital tours. I'm sure you've done the Ford museum but if you haven't been to Hickory Corners to visit the Gilmore Car Museum, it is worth the trip.

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

You look dangerous with a gavel! Good post and great images.