Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol serves as the state’s capital and seat of government. The edifice, which is located in downtown Austin, Texas, contains the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature as well as the Governor of Texas. It was designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers and built from 1882 to 1888 under the supervision of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. In 1993, a $75 million subterranean expansion was completed. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
The Texas State Capital is 302.64 feet (92.24 m) tall, making it the sixth-tallest state capitol and one of just a few that are taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The capitol was placed 92nd in the American Institute of Architects’ 2007 “America’s Favorite Architecture” survey.
The current Texas State Capitol is the third structure to perform that function. The first was a wooden edifice that had served as the national capitol of the Texas Republic and remained in use after Texas’ admittance to the Union. The second Texas capital was erected in 1853 on the same location as the current capitol in Austin; it was destroyed by fire in 1881, although plans to rebuild it had already been formed.
An provision of the state constitution, approved on February 15, 1876, permitted the sale of public properties to support the construction of the Italian Renaissance Revival-style capital. The Capitol Syndicate (John V. Farwell and Charles B. Farwell) were rewarded with more than three million acres (12,000 km2) of public property in the Texas Panhandle in one of the greatest barter transactions in recorded history; this tract ultimately became the world’s largest cow ranch, the XIT Ranch. The value of the land, together with costs, brought the total cost of the original structure to $3.7 million. It was mostly built by prisoners or migrant labourers, often thousands at a time. The structure has had multiple renovations, with central air conditioning added in 1955 and the most recent renovations performed in 1997.
Design and characteristics
The Texas State Capitol and grounds are situated on a mountaintop overlooking downtown Austin, with the main entrance facing the Congress Avenue Historic District to the south and forming an ending vista. The capital grounds’ northern boundary is four blocks south of the University of Texas at Austin.
The capital is a roughly rectangular structure with a four-story core block, three-story wings extending east and west, and a dome rising from the center. It is designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and patterned after the United States Capitol, although its façade is coated in local red granite. It has 360,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of floor space (excluding the Capital Extension), which is greater than any other state capitol building, and sits on a 2.25-acre (0.91 hectare) lot. The structure features almost 400 rooms and over 900 windows.
Under the dome, the interior of the central part creates an open rotunda. Massive cast-iron stairs surrounding the rotunda link the building’s many floors. The Texas Senate and House of Representatives convene in vast, double-height areas in the centers of the two wings on the second floor, which are overlooked by public galleries on the third level. The rest of the structure houses offices, courts, and archives, with additional offices in the basement expansion.
Museums and public art
Portraits of all former presidents of the Republic of Texas and governors of the State of Texas hang in the central rotunda, which also serves as a whispering gallery. The south entryway has a massive picture of David Crockett, a painting representing General Santa Anna’s surrender at the Battle of San Jacinto, and Elisabet Ney’s sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. From its inception in 1903 until its relocation to the General Land Office Building in 1920, the Texas Confederate Museum was housed in a room on the first level (today the Capitol Visitors Center).
The Capitol is surrounded by 22 acres (8.9 hectares) of grounds dotted with sculptures and monuments. In 1888, civil engineer William Munro Johnson was engaged to improve the aesthetic of the grounds. The essential components of Johnson’s scheme were in place by the time the first monument, honoring the Heroes of the Alamo, was placed in 1891. A “Great Walk” of black and white diamond-patterned pavement shaded by trees was among them. The four oldest monuments, which border the tree-lined Great Walk, are the Heroes of the Alamo Monument (1891), Volunteer Firemen Monument (1896), Confederate Soldiers Monument (1903), and Terry’s Texas Rangers Monument (1907). The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument was dedicated on March 29, 2014, after ground was begun in the spring of 2013.
The Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol was the subject of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit, Van Orden v. Perry, in which the display was challenged as unconstitutional. In late June 2005, the Court ruled 5-4 that the display was not illegal.
Next Point of Interest: Zilker Park