Cupolas of Capitalism
State Capitol Building Histories

States from A to B

Click on the image to visit the Cupolas of Capitalism picture gallery. Graphic is Howard Partridge's abstraction of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., created from an aerial photo in the public domain from William J. Ball's Teaching Politics site.

This portion of Cupola site chronicles the rich and often colorful architectural history of the American State Capitol Buildings.  Perhaps no other secular building type is so closely affiliated with dome and cupola designs, or use them as effectively as symbols of unity and power.

States with Capitol Buildings featuring prominent exterior cupolas are highlighted in yellow.  These include former State Houses still standing in the current capital city.  Former State Capitol Buildings existing elsewhere are not covered here.  States possessing Capitol Buildings with other cupola-like forms like domes, drums, and towers in their designs are so noted in their building descriptions.

Historical information presented in this section has been compiled from various State Government and Historical Society websites, with Eldon Hauck's comprehensive 1991 book, American Capitols, as a primary source.  Picture credits are included both on the pages of the accompanying Picture Gallery, and, more briefly, in the "mouse-over" descriptions associated with each image.  The Library of Congress, Chris Miller, Pat and Debbi Furrie, Robert Dolton, Les Center, and Bill Hazzard must be credited along with Howard, Bruce and Les Partridge for the bulk of the contemporary and historic photos, postcards, and drawings that appear here.  Credit is also due to the hard-working content providers whose sites enhance the building descriptions via offsite links.  Many offer greatly expanded coverage of individual capitol buildings and their grounds.  Of course Wikipedia also offers a growing wealth of info on the state capitols.  It draws from its own group of contributors, with this site sometimes credited as one of the source references for their articles.

Please note that at any given moment, a few of the offsite links found here will be offline.  This is the nature of links, web servers, and the ever changing Internet.  Links to government sites are most prone to fail on weekends, or sometimes, after newly elected officials take power.  Most bounce back within a day or two, but not always.  Cupola verifies and updates its collection of links periodically, so any really dead or broken ones do get weeded out eventually.

Also note that the 3D view links rely on browser plug-ins from Google Earth and, to a lesser degree, MS Bing Maps 3D.  Even with these plug-ins installed, 3D view links can be quirky in their operation.  The satellite, bird's eye, street, and 3D model view links normally work without plug-ins, but they can be quirky in their operation as well.  The compatibility of each view type with different browsers and hardware varies.  Depending on your computing environment, you may find the view links fully or only partially operational, or not working at all.  When first called up, they may unaccountably reposition the view, change the zoom level, or suppress the display of the desired capitol building model.  Sometimes going back and selecting the view link again or switching between different view types will correctly update the display.  The Google 3D view link typically degrades from Google Earth view to a distant map or satellite view when not fully compatible with the browser or video card.  This will also occur when Google Maps runs in "lite" or "classic" modes, rather than "full 3D" mode.  Google offers this link as a way to force Google Maps back into "full 3D" mode when it is so capable.

Click on any picture to see an enlarged version, or to view the other historic images available under the Cupolas of Capitalism Picture Gallery.  For additional photographic coverage of the state capitols, the state capitols project, from photographer Edward Crim, and Capitolshots Photography, are both excellent resources.  A search on the website may reveal other state capitol photos, including copyright and usage info specific to each image.

Alabama Montgomery 600 Dexter Ave. (at N. Bainbridge St.) / bird's eye view rotated to show front from MS Bing; street and 3D view from Google Maps; and 3D model from 3D Warehouse.

1851, central portion of Capitol designed and built / George Nichols replacing 1847 Capitol that burned by Stephen D. Button.

Note: other sources credit different architects.  The state's own website credits the design to Barachais Holt, and claims it was built on the foundation of the burned Button capitol.  Another source at the Library of Congress says Nichols, not Button, designed the burned capitol.  That source credits Nimrod E. Benson and Justus Wyman as supervising the new capitol's construction.  It does not list the building's architect, but it states that Nichols strongly influenced the design.

1885, East Wing added / W. T. Walker.

1905-06, South Wing added / Frank Lockwood with Charles Follen McKim.

1911-12, North Wing added / Frank Lockwood.

1985, Alabama State Legislature relocates to the State House building, located behind the Capitol building and built decades earlier as the State Highway Department building.  Complete renovation and restoration of the Capitol building begins upon their departure.

1989-92, new rear portico added in an extension of the East Wing / ? architect.

2009, new building for the Alabama State Legislature proposed as a future project.
Historic architectural drawing showing west front elevation of the Alabama State Capitol Building. Delineated by John R. Farris in 1934 for the Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress).
Original central core of capitol built in the Greek Revival style
.  Features a circular drum tower capped with a dome and cupola.  Later Neoclassical wings added at sides and back.  119 feet tall.  More info offsite with this photo essay from the state archive site.  The Alabama Historical Commission offers a virtual tour and a brief history of the state capitol building on their website.  A fine photo gallery is also available from Edward Crim.
Alaska Juneau 120 4th St. (between Main & Seward Streets) / aerial view and bird's eye view (in one direction, other directions may be forthcoming) from MS Bing; street and maybe a forthcoming 3D view from Google Maps; and 3D model from 3D Warehouse.

1923-31, Capitol designed and built / James A. Wetmore and U.S. Treasury Department Architects.

2004-05, design competition for a new Capitol building / winning entry by Thom Mayne of Morphosis (Santa Monica, CA) and Mike Mense of mmenseArchitects (Anchorage, AK).  Project now on hold indefinitely.

Oblique view of the Alaska State Capitol Building. Used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development. Mark Wayne was the photographer.
An Art Deco block with classical elements
.  Flat topped and approx. 118 feet tall.  Picture and more info offsite, in this official Alaska State Capitol Building description, and this illustrated history, complete with a visitor brochure and video tours.  Also available is this QuickTime panorama, from Virtual Guidebooks (favors viewing via Firefox browser), and this photograph from the Juneau, Alaska, Capital City Homepage.

Thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, some of the conceptual plans from the Alaska Capitol Design Competition are still available online despite the disappearance of the original project website.  Morphosis had been the only competition finalist to submit a design that incorporated a large dome, although the proposal from Moshe Safdie had at least featured a clever abstraction of the form.  For an architectural perspective on the project, see Marianne Cusato's critique in the Town Paper, an urban design publication.

Arizona Phoenix 1700 W. Washington St. (at S. 17th Ave.) / bird's eye view rotated to show front from MS Bing; street and 3D view from Google Maps; and 3D model from 3D Warehouse.

1899-1900, Capitol designed and built / James Riley Gordon.

1919, West Wing (annex) added.  Capitol takes on a T-shaped plan overall / A. J. Gifford.

1938, new West Wing attached behind and centered on the 1919 (now hyphen) addition.  The capitol plan now formed an H-shape overall.  The new wing housed the State Library and Archives, which still occupy the building, and, as another source states, the Supreme Court Chamber, which has since moved out into a building of its own / Orville A. Bell.  He had initially proposed to attach an office tower with flanking wings behind the capitol, becoming the first of several architects to do so, but the legislature rejected the concept.

1954-57, lawmakers were considering constructing a new capitol.  At the request of a reporter, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, sketched out and presented his vision of the ideal capitol, which he called the "Pro Bono Publico" (a.k.a. "The Oasis").  Wright's new capitol project never progressed beyond the drawing board.  Two different posters showing Wright's unrealized design are available from  Wright's own book, A Testament includes other views of the project.  The Guggenheim Museum in New York has put on an exhibition with drawings and a video of the 3D animated model that Vivien Liu developed as a student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Architecture.

1956-1960, separate House and Senate buildings with new chambers built in front of the capitol in line with its north and south ends.  Another proposal to build a new office tower with lower flanking wings, centered on the front and blocking the view of the original capitol, was discarded in favor of this "compromise" solution / Lescher and Mahoney with William Pereira.

1974, Executive Tower with lower north and south flanking wings attached behind and centered on the 1938 addition.  The remaining state offices in the original capitol move into this new West Wing / Edward Leighton Varney, Jr.

1981, original capitol restored and given museum status / ? architect.

2001, restoration work / joint venture of TRK Architecture & Facilities Management and Otwell Associates, Architects.

2005 to present, a major reconfiguration of capitol mall and possible replacement of existing legislative buildings under study.
East (front) elevation of the Arizona State Capitol Building. Photo courtesy of Pat and Debbi Furrie, taken in June of 2003.
Neoclassical state capitol building with Spanish influences
.  Copper covered dome but no cupola.  92 feet tall.  The dome is capped with a statue called Winged Victory.  Some more info is available offsite from the Arizona State Capitol Museum website.  This Wikipedia article provides a more detailed building description and history.  The Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network may offer the most candid assessment of the capitol building's contentious early design history with their online copy of the Sept. 1957 edition of Arizona Architect magazine (a sizeable Adobe Acrobat download).
Arkansas Little Rock
(Old State House & New State Capitol)
Old State House at 300 W. Markham St. (at S. Center St.) / bird's eye view rotated for visibility from MS Bing; street and 3D view from Google Maps.

1833-1845, Old State House designed and built (now Museum of Arkansas) / Gideon Shyrock.

1885, Old State House remodeled.  Building extended sixty feet on the north side; connecting walkways (hyphens) enclosed and given a second story; iron balustrades added to second floor balconies on Markham St. side; straight interior stairs replaced with grander curving ones; and windows at landings removed and skylights installed over central hall and newly enlarged House of Representatives / Harding and Bailey.

1911, State government first convenes in New Capitol building.  It served as a medical school from 1912-35, and it housed offices for the local American Legion chapter from 1921-49.

1949-51, Old State House restored to its 1885 appearance and rededicated as the Old State House Museum / Bruce R. Anderson.

1996-99, restoration of the Old State House.  Stabilization, foundation work, and other structural repairs / Witsell, Evans & Rasco, working with John Milner & Associates.
New State Capitol at W. Capitol Ave. & Woodlane St. / bird's eye view rotated to show front from MS Bing; street and 3D view from Google Maps; and 3D model from 3D Warehouse.

1899-1915, New State Capitol designed and built / begun by George R. Mann; finished by Cass Gilbert, including dome.

1966, Senate chamber remodeled in New State Capitol / ? architect.

1998-present, renovations and restorations to New State Capitol.  Projects have included exterior limestone and dome repairs, restoration of the grand east promenade with landscaping, and renovations to the ground floor visitor's center.  Other projects restored the Governor's reception room, the old Supreme Court chamber, and senate chamber / WER (a.k.a. Witsell + Evans + Rasco) for much of the work.  Unclear whether other architectural firms have been involved.
Historic architectural drawing showing a partial south (front) elevation of the Old Arkansas State Capitol Building. Delineated by Clyde A. Ferrell in 1934 for the Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress).
Greek Revival Old State House
.  Low pitched roof.  Pictures and more info offsite at the Old State House Museum website.  A building history and more photos are available via the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website.

Late 20th century view of the Arkansas State Capitol Building, courtesy of Les R. Center.
The Neoclassical New State House
features a circular central drum tower that is capped with a dome and cupola.  213 feet tall from ground level to top of cupola.  More info offsite with a choice of official virtual tours from the website of the Arkansas Secretary of State; a building history from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas; an unofficial photo essay about the building's skewed site placement; and an unofficial photo album from Edward Crim.

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