Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lincoln - Nebraska's Capital

Our original plan was to spend a few days in Lincoln so we could tour the Nebraska capitol. That plan changed when we had the issue with the slide (that still has not been repaired) and decided to spend a week near Omaha. We were only 60 miles from Lincoln so we did a day trip to the capital. We stayed at Haworth Park, a community park on the banks of the Missouri River. When we returned to the park from Lincoln we were met with many severe weather warnings. We had very heavy rain and the worst winds we have encountered in our ten years on the road. We did not know how bad it was until we saw the news the next day. Several homes were destroyed and three days later over 8,000 homes were still without power. On our morning walk on the levee less than two miles from where we were staying we saw 100's of trees had been blown down. We sure were lucky to miss this tornado.   
This is the third skyscraper capitol we have toured and without a doubt the most beautiful of this style. This building is the third capitol in Nebraska and took 10 years to build so they could pay the $10,000,000 without going into debt. The style is a combination with the exterior being Art Deco and the interior using Gothic and other classic styles. It was started in 1922 with the outer square built around the old building so the government services were not interrupted. Next the old one was razed and the north, south and east arms were built. The third phase was the building of the tower and finally, the west side was completed in 1932.   
The 400 foot tower is domed at the top with a 12 foot sculpture, The Sower.  It depicts the traditional way of planting by hand and the importance of agriculture to the Nebraska way of life. At the bottom of the dome is a circle of thunderbirds, an important symbol for the native people.
The Lincoln statue was done by Danial Chester French, the same sculptor who did the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It symbolizes Lincoln standing over a grave with the Gettysburg Address on the wall behind.
The floor of the rotunda is a mosaic with Mother Earth in the middle surrounded with symbols for Soil, Water, Fire and Wind. The bands around the circles have animals found in Nebraska.
The dome 110 feet above the floor is painted with winged figures in a celestial rose of Virtue. It is one of the most beautiful we have seen.
The three murals in the rotunda represent the virtues of work. Top is Labor of the Hand and Labor of the Heart. Bottom is Labor of the Head.
Off the rotunda are two legislative chambers. The doors of the Warner Chamber celebrate Nebraska's Native Americans. The man on the right is holding a ceremonial pipe and standing on an otter. The woman with a child on her back is standing on a turtle, a symbol of fertility. A thunderbird hovers over them.
The other chamber is the Senate chamber. Since 1937, after the capitol was built, Nebraska has had the nation's only Unicameral, one house, legislature. There are 49 senators who are elected to four year terms in nonpartisan elections. Half are up for election every two years and they can only serve two terms.  
The columns in the chamber are different colors representing the diversity of the people of Nebraska. 
The hall between the rotunda and the vestibule has vaulted ceilings. The walls have six Venetian glass murals that were added in 1967 to celebrate the state's centennial.  
Four of the glass murals. Top is Tree Planting and The Spirit of Nebraska. Bottom is The Blizzard of 1880 and The Coming of the Railroad.
Each of the arches has mosaics that represent past, present and future life on the plains of Nebraska. At bottom left there is a basketball player representing sports in Nebraska.
The mosaic ceiling of the vestibule shows agriculture and native animals. The signs of the Zodiac are also shown. 
The sunrise sunset murals in the vestibule by James Penney are The Homesteader's Campfire, The First Furrow and The House Raising. They all celebrate the state's early settlers.
I guess they have not updated for a while or there are a lot of people here who want to make private calls. There were several phone booths throughout the building. 
The Supreme Court Chamber has acoustic tiled walls and tapestries. The baffled ceiling was made with over 8,000 pieces of walnut to prevent echoing. The room has corn and sunflower carvings. 
The governor's reception room is done in the Italian Renaissance style. There are murals on the walls and vaulted ceiling depicting the rights and responsibilities of citizens and their government.
Throughout the second floor corridors there are busts of people from all walks of life who have been inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Here are William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, author Willa Cather, Father Flanagan founder of Boys Town, Red Cloud who sued for and won Native American rights and newspaper man Gilbert Hitchcock.
Between the outer lower part of the capitol and the center tower are four courtyards that where never completed as shown in the original plan. The fountains in each one were being tested when we were there. The final landscaping will be done this summer. These fountains complete the original plans for the building of the capitol. 
On the fourteenth floor is the Memorial Chamber and another 70 foot high dome. The blue and gold symbolize the Nebraska sky and the red and gold sunburst the sun shining over the plains.
The purpose of the chamber was to show those ideals that portray the finer side of human nature. The eight murals in the chamber are The Scourge of Poverty, The Ideal of Universal Peace, The Scourge of Famine, The Ideal of International Law, The Scourge of Plague, The Ideal of Self-Determination, The Perils of Fire and The Ideal of Freedom
The view of Lincoln from the fourteenth floor observation deck. The height of buildings in the area is restricted so as not to take away from the towering capitol. This is one of the nicest capitols we have toured. The art is fantastic while celebrating the history and people of Nebraska.

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