July 7, 2016 – North Dakota State Capitol – North Dakota Heritage Center – Governor’s Mansion – Old Governor’s Residence

North Dakota’s current Capitol is one of only four State Capitols which look like high-rise office buildings … Baton Rouge LA, Lincoln, NE and Tallahassee FL being the other three.

State Capitol (a), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

The nineteen-story building stands just shy of 241 feet 8 inches in height.  It is the tallest building in North Dakota and is known as the Skyscraper on the Prairie.  This tower houses the office of the Governor of North Dakota and the offices of multiple state agencies and departments.

The simplicity of its Art Deco styling is seen in its clean lines, open spaces, streamlined curving shapes and rich materials like the Indiana Limestone and Wisconsin black granite that over the façade of the building.  Minnesota granite makes up the front staircase. 

At the tower's base, in the west wing, the two chambers of the State’s Legislative Assembly (94 Representatives and 47 Senators beet every two years for a maximum of 80 days … true citizen legislators)  meet when in session while the North Dakota Supreme Court meets in the east wing. The 18th floor of the Capitol is not used for offices as the other floors are, but rather as an observation deck; it is the highest vantage point in the state.

The original North Dakota State Capitol building,

First Capitol (1903), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07Photo circa 1903

State Capitol (1883-1930) Taken in 1925, Bismarck SD - 2106-07-07Aerial view taken in 1925 showing the Capitol and the Liberty Memorial Building (the oldest on the grounds) and is home to the North Dakota Library

built between 1883 and 1884, expanded in 1894 (Senate wing) and 1903 (House wing) and which burned to the ground the morning of December 28, 1930.

State Capitol (1883-1930) Fire on 1930-12-28, Bismarck SD - 2106-07-07

North Dakota was the 39th state, having been admitted to the union on November 2, 1889.  However, development to its capital came slowly and can be appreciated thru the following photo of its Main Street.

Main Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota (circa 1873)1973

Main Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota (circa 1874)1874

Main Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota (circa 1893)1893

Main Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota (circa 1929)1929

Main Avenue, Bismark, North Dakota (circa 1955)1955

We were fortunate to have a private tour this morning.

Ground Floor Lobby

State Capitol (Hall of Fame), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07The walls are adorned with the photographs of 42 notables … people either born in or who were later residents of North Dakota.  Some of those include:

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Lawrence Welk), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Lawrence Welk – through whose birthplace, Linton, we passed through enroute to Bismarck

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Phil Jackson), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Basketball Legend and Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Peggy Lee), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Singer Peggy Lee

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Carl Ben Eielson), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Famed Alaskan Bush pilot and founder of Alaska Airlines Carl Ben Eielson

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Roger Maris), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Baseball Hall of Famer Roger Maris

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Eric Sevareid), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Legendary CBS Reporter and Commentary Eric Sevareid

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Master Sargent Woodrow Keeble), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07World War II and Korean War Congressional Medal of Honor Awardee Master Sargent Woodrow Keeble

State Capitol (ND Hall of Fame - Teddy Roosevelt), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07President Teddy Roosevelt, after whom the Hall of Fame was named … the only honoree not born in nor having lived in North Dakota

Elevator and Revolving Doors Brass Reliefs

State Capitol (Revolving Door - Bronze Reliefs), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

State Capitol (Elevator Door), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07The sculptures depict the “Pioneer Experience”

Memorial Hall

State Capitol (Memorial Hall), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Bronze columns and the North Dakota State Seal

Legislative Hall

State Capitol (Legislative Hall), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07East Indian Rose wood and a 40’ high ceiling

State Capitol (Legislative Hall - Conference Seats), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

Conference couches line the Legislative Hall

Senate Chamber

State Capitol (Senate Chamber), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Walls covered with quarter-sawed English Oak

House Chamber

State Capitol (House Chamber), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07 - CopyWalls covered with ancient Chestnut

Supreme Court Chamber

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chambers), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07The part of the building with active security screening when the Court is in session

State Capitol (Bust of former Chief Justice Ralph J. Erickstad), Bismarck, ND -  - CopyThe Supreme Court Room was named after former Chief Justice Ralph J. Erickstad

Governor’s Office

State Capitol (Governor's Office - Circa 1935), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07 - CopyWithout access to the Governor’s inner office we had to settle for a photo of the offices circa 1935 and viewing some artifacts and photos in his reception office

State Capitol (Governor's Office - Eagle and Peace Pipe), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07 - CopyEagle and Peace Pipe

State Capitol (City of Bismarck JHSV-9), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07 - CopyPhoto of the USNS City of Bismarck (JHSV-9)  –  Although being a retired naval office, I’d never heard of a JHSV (Joint High Speed Vessel).  JHSVs have a 20,000 square foot open mission deck and an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations. They can operate in a variety of roles to include supporting overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supporting special operations forces and supporting emerging joint sea-basing concepts.  The City of Bismarck joined the fleet earlier this year.

View from the 18th Floor Observation Level

State Capitol (View South from 18th Floor), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07On a clear day you can see up to 35 miles.

State Capitol (Wicker Furniture Made by Patients at State Mental Hospital - 1933), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07The floor’s furnishings include wicker chairs and couches which were made by patients at the state mental hospital

State Capitol (Original Telephone Switchboard), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Of the dozens of photos, one was of the original building’s telephone switchboard

State Capitol (Photo of General George A. Custer's Home), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07And another of General George Armstrong Custer’s North Dakota home


As with most State Capitols, the surrounding grounds are populated with a variety of monuments, memorials and sculptures.

State Capitol (Statue of John Burke), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07North Dakota Legislator, Governor and Supreme Court Justice and later Treasurer of the United States

State Capitol Grounds (All Veterans Memorial), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07The All Veterans Memorial is dedicated to those North Dakotans who gave their lives during times of war

State Capitol Grounds (Cortez), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Cortes

State Capitol Grounds (Buffalo), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Buffalo

State Capitol Grounds (Pioneer Family), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Pioneer Family – dedicated to the families who settled the great northwest

State Capitol Grounds (Pioneers of the Future), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Pioneers of the Future – dedicated to the state’s young people who will be the pioneers of the future

State Capitol Grounds (Sakakawea and her Child), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Sakakawea (“The Bird Woman”) – the Shoshone woman who was born not too far west of Bismarck.  At approximately age 13, Sacagawea was taken as a wife by Toussaint Charbonneau, a Quebecois trapper living in her village.  She was pregnant with her first child when Lewis and Clark arrived.  She is joined their expedition and between 1804 and 1806, she traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, established cultural contacts with Native American populations, and researched natural history.  Her son, Jean Baptist Charbonneau was born during the expedition in February 1805

Next to the Capitol Building is the 52 million dollar North Dakota Heritage Center, one of the state’s largest museums.  Unfortunately, as we had am 11:00 AM appointment to tour the Governor’s Mansion, we had time to visit only part of this diverse building … with most of that time in the “Adaption Gallery: Geologic Time” … study in paleontology; with fossils dating from 450 million years ago

North Dakota Heritage Center (Snail Fossil in 450 million year old Dolostone), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Snail fossil on a piece of dolomite

North Dakota Heritage Center (Bivalve Fossils), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07

Though the ages of great ocean fish and reptiles;

North Dakota Heritage Center (Mosasaurs Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Mosasaurus, a gigantic carnivore that swam seas around the globe 80 million to 66 million years ago and could reach a length of 40’

North Dakota Heritage Center (Xiphactinus Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Xiphactinus was one of the largest bony fish of the Late Cretaceous and is considered one of the fiercest creatures in the sea. A powerful tail and wing like pectoral fins shot the 17-foot-long monster through the surface waters of the ocean.


North Dakota Heritage Center (Piceoerpeton Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Piceoerpeton – one of the largest salamanders ever discovered

Retiles and Dinosaurs;

North Dakota Heritage Center (Champsosaurus Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Champsosaurus was a crocodile-like animal that lived in swamps and ponds in North Dakota about 58 million years ago and could grow up to 10’ in length

North Dakota Heritage Center (Triceratops Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Triceratops

North Dakota Heritage Center (T-Rex Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07T-Rex

early flying Reptiles and Birds;

North Dakota Heritage Center (Hesperonis Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Hesperonis – a Toothed, flightless diving bird that could grow to 5’ tall, had feathers and an aerodynamic body

A rock showing the K/T Boundary is also on display

North Dakota Heritage Center (K-T Boundary), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07The K-T boundary is the point in between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. Geologists have dated this period to about 65.5 million years ago.  It is denoted by the BROWN layer (above).  Almost all the large vertebrates on Earth, on land, at sea, and in the air (all dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, and pterosaurs) suddenly became extinct about 65 Ma, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. At the same time, most plankton and many tropical invertebrates, especially reef-dwellers, became extinct, and many land plants were severely affected.  Despite the scale of the extinctions, however, we must not be trapped into thinking that the K-T boundary marked a disaster for all living things. Most groups of organisms survived. Insects, mammals, birds, and flowering plants on land, and fishes, corals, and molluscs in the ocean went on to diversify tremendously soon after the end of the Cretaceous.

and Mammals, some of which existed during the time our human ancestors walked on the earth.     

North Dakota Heritage Center (Mastodon Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Mastodon

North Dakota Heritage Center (Giant Ground Sloth Skeleton), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07Giant Sloth

North Dakota Heritage Center (Evolution of Bisons), Bismark, ND - 2106-07-07From Right to Left: 

Bison Antiquus – 1,000 lbs – 6.9’ shoulder height – Horn span 3.3’

Buffalo Iatifrons (earliest) – 2,500 to 4,000 lbs – 8’ shoulder height – Horn span 4’-7’

Bison bison (modern) – 930 – 2,000 lbs – 6’ shoulder height – Horn span 2’


From there we walked across the capital grounds to the current residence of the Governor.  We were lucky to get the tour as it is not commonly know they are available.  We just called … it ws that simple!

Governor's Residence (a), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

The building, completed in 1960, is more contemporary that others we’ve visited; although it was apparently designed in the prairie ranch style.

Governor's Residence (Front Door), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

Once inside, we had a private tour of the “public” portion of the mansion … while the Governor’s family private quarters are not available, which is understandable.

Governor's Residence (Inlaid Tile Carpet), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07The tile rug in the foyer was an amazing work of art

Governor's Residence (Public Living Room), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07Living Room

Governor's Residence (Public Dining Room), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07Dining Room

Governor's Residence (Public-Private Kitchen), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07Kitchen – used both for public functions and by the first family

Governor's Residence (Residence Living Room), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07Although “off limits” we were shown the family’s dining and living rooms.

There is a conscientious effort made to decorate the residence with artwork made by North Dakota artisans.  Some of the amazing pieces we saw included:

Governor's Residence (North Dakota Made Lamp), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

Governor's Residence (North Dakota Wooden Bowl}, Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

Governor's Residence (North Dakota Painted Rodeo Girl), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

Governor's Residence (North Dakota Made Glass Bowl), Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

Governor's Residence (North Dakota Buffalo Skin Covered Pottery}, Bismarck, ND - 2106-07-07

From there we went to the Former Governor’s Mansion

Old Governor's Mansion (a), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

Old Governor's Mansion (b), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07built in 1884 as a private home for Bismarck businessman Asa Fisher. Fisher homesteaded in Edwinton (Bismarck) in 1872 and made his fortune in banking, real estate and liquor sales. In 1893, the house was sold to the state for $5000. The house was used as the governor's residence from 1893–1960 and was the home of twenty North Dakota governors. In 1975, the State Legislature passed House Bill 1315 which transferred ownership to the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The house was renovated to look as it did in 1893 and opened to the public as a North Dakota State Historic Site in 1983.

The first things we noticed was the door knobs

Old Governor's Mansion (Door Knob), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

and hinges.

Old Governor's Mansion (Door Hinges), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07

All the furniture in the home was used by one of the thirty-five first families who lived in the residence.

Old Governor's Mansion (Front Parlor), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Front Parlor

Old Governor's Mansion (Rear Parlor), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Rear Parlor

Old Governor's Mansion (Dual Radiator), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Unique and stylish steam radiator

Old Governor's Mansion (Dining Room - a), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Dining Room

Old Governor's Mansion (Kitchen Freezer and Refrigerator), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Kitchen Refrigerator/Freezer

Old Governor's Mansion (Kitchen Sink), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Kitchen Sink

Old Governor's Mansion (Carrige House), Bismarck, ND - 2016-07-07Carriage House


This entry was posted in North Dakota Governor's Mansions, North Dakota State Capitol, Bismark, ND. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.