Utah’s state capitol was originally targeted for a small town in central, Fillmore (in Millard County, no less), not surprisingly named for President Millard Fillmore who was in office when Utah became a territory. In fact, a new state capitol building was actually built.
However, as the vast majority of the population, and therefore, the majority of legislators lived in Salt Lake City, the thought of having to travel to Fillmore was not popular. As a result in December 1856 Salt Lake City became the territory’s and then state’s capitol. The hilltop site on which today’s capitol sits, was once an armory. However, an explosion destroyed the facility and surrounding neighborhood.
With no capitol building in the state in 1909, the governor initiated a design contest which was finally won by an Architect, Richard Kleeting.
Today’s capitol, completed in 116 is a magnificent structure in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and offers a spectacular view of the City and views to the west.
The dome is covered with Utah copper.
Among the innovations included in Kleeting’s design were the latest technologies. He used the modern techniques of non-flammable reinforced concrete for the structural systems rather than timber frame, a central vacuum system, fire-proofing, elevators and electric lighting.
In the center of the first floor is a large state seal.
Above, the light bulbs were designed to look like those invented by Thomas Edison.
The Rotunda is situated on the second floor
Its ceiling soaring 165’ feet, on which California seagulls, the state bird, are visible.
Perhaps the most significant additions to the Rotunda since the 2004-2008 restoration are the 11-foot bronze sculpture groups created by artists Eugene Daub, Robert Firmin, and Jonah Hendrickson. The original Capitol Commission report of 1915-1916 included a recommendation from artists of the era that when budgets allowed for additional art in and on the building, themes were to be classical allegorical. The new sculptures feature an adult figure in each niche who mentors a youthful companion. They are collectively called by their sculptors “The Great Utahns.”
High above hangs a chandelier weighing 6,000 lbs.
Above the statues are four painting depicting major milestones in the history of Utah
Murals hang over the entrances to House of Representatives
and Old Supreme Court chambers.
The stairs from the Rotunda to the third floor,
are made of solid Georgia Marble.
State Reception Room (The “Gold” Room)
House of Representatives
The Old Supreme Court Chamber was closed while being repainted. However, we were able to locate a photo of the courtroom.
Each state selects two statues to reside in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Replicas of Utah’s statues are also fund in the State Capitol.
The building fourth floor has a series of photos describing the construction and later renovation of the Capitol. In addition, there are several busts and other artifacts on display.
During the restoration of the Capitol between 2004-2008, this pair of shoes was found inside one of the terra cotta railing or balustrades, on the outside of the Capitol dome This may be a reference to an old European tradition of placing a worn pair of shoes inside a wall or foundation of a new structure to ward off evil or bring good luck. This is not the first capitol where we’ve seen where old shoes have been recovered during building renovations or restorations.
One of the Capitol’s 1998 renovation objectives is to improve seismic capacity while maintaining the Capitol building’s historic appearance. Located in Salt Lake City, the building stands in an earthquake zone where seismic monitoring stations record more than 700 earthquakes each year. Studies indicate that a ground-rupturing earthquake of approximately 6.7 or greater on the Richter scale occurs along the Salt Lake City region of the Wasatch Fault about once every 1,300 years, and geologists estimate that it has been 1,300 years since the last such earthquake.
This is a small model of a base isolator, a cylinder made of rubber, steel and lead. During an earthquake, base isolators do exactly as the name indicates; they isolate the foundation of a building from the movement of the ground, providing crucial protection against severe and life-threatening damage.
During the renovation, the capitol’s foundation was removed and replaced. Each of 265 concrete support columns under the building was cut. One base isolator was installed at the bottom of each column; supporting the Capitol’s 168 million pounds. They allow the building to move independently of the ground and to shift as much as two feet in any direction in the case of a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.
We were fortunate to have an opportunity visit the basement and see the installations.
Outside on the Capitol Grounds are found:
Statues of four prominent Utahans grace an interior courtyard
Mormon Battalion Monument
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Veterans Memorial
Law Enforcement Memorial
The stone wall behind the sculptures display the names of 137 officers that have died while protecting Utah citizens. A round plaque serves as the centerpiece of the monument and is laid in the ground to honor those who served our great state. The words—”all give some, some give all”—remind visitors of the sacrifice made by Utahns all over the state.
Civil War Memorial
Although no Civil War battles were fought in Utah Territory, units from both Utah and California were assigned to guard mail and telegraph lines, which were being raided by Native American tribes. This monument is dedicated to the Utahans who helped protect those communication lines, and it lists the names of all 130 men who served in this capacity: 24 men who served under Colonel Robert T. Burton and 106 men who served under Captain Lot Smith.
We then made an attempt to visit the Governor’s Mansion
Unfortunately, tours are only given on Thursdays … and today it’s not Thursday!
Nearby, the First Presbyterian Church (established 1871), as most non-Catholic churches, was not open.
However, the magnificent Cathedral of Madeline was!
Before heading back to our campground, we decided to revisit Temple Square, which we’d seen during a trip to Salt Lake City many years ago.