August 29, 2016 – Arkansas State Capitol – Visiting with Friends

The Arkansas State Capitol was chief among our reasons for stopping in Little Rock.

Prior to the construction of the current Capitol, The Old State House in Little Rock was the seat of the Territory and later state’s government. 

Old State HouseAs it is undergoing renovation, we were unable to visit

It is the oldest surviving state capitol building west of the Mississippi River and is perhaps best known as the site of President Bill Clinton’s election night celebration in 1992.

Construction of the current Capitol

State Capitol (a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29took 16 years, from 1899 to 1915.  The Neo-Classical design was by St. Louis architect George R. Mann.  After Mann was fired, accused in bribery in 1909, New York’s Cass Gilbert was called in to complete the building.  The Capitol was built on the site of the state penitentiary and prisoners helped construct the building. They lived in a dormitory that was left on the Capitol grounds while construction was taking place.

The Capitol foundations were aligned incorrectly by their original builder, the future Governor George Donaghey (who was responsible for firing Mann)  centered the building on the centerline of Fifth Street (now Capitol Avenue), but he aligned the building north-south using the still-standing penitentiary walls as a guide without recognizing that Fifth Street was not aligned east-west; like other "east-west" downtown Little Rock streets, it runs parallel to the Arkansas River at a slight angle off true east-west.  Therefore, the structure is situated in a north-south manner from end-to-end, which does not fit the grid street pattern of Little Rock's downtown.  This also led to a slight S-curve in the formal entrance walkway between the foot of Capitol Avenue and the front steps of the Capitol.

State Capitol (Exterior Steps), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The exterior of the Capitol is made of limestone, which was quarried in Batesville, Arkansas.  Though it was initially stipulated a total cost for the envisioned capitol would not to exceed $1 million, total construction cost was $2.2 million or $320 million in 2014 dollars.

The building measures 440’ north-to-south, 196’ east-to-west and covers nearly 287,000 square feet.

Though difficult to see, letters in the five windows above the Capitol’s steps spell, “P E A C E”.

State Capitol (''PEACE'' in Round Windows), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The front entrance doors are made of bronze, which are 10 feet tall, four inches thick and were purchased from Tiffany's in New York for $10,000.

State Capitol (Bronze Doors), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Originally, the dome was to be a copy of Saint Peter’s in Rome, but as costs rose, the plans changed.  Ultimately, the dome was designed from the plans used for the Mississippi capitol dome.

State Capitol (Dome - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The distance from the ground to the top of the cupola’s finial 213’.

State Capitol (Dome - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Copula and Ball Finial), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The cupola’s finial is covered in 24 karat gold leaf.

State Capitol (Copula and Ball Finial), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Upon entering the building and passing through security, you walk across a light projection of the state’s seal

State Capitol (State Seal Projection on First Floor), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and not too far away is a backlit version.

State Capitol (State Seal - Backlit), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The interior is constructed of marble from three states … the floors and walls from Vermont,

State Capitol (Rotunda - Second Floor from the Fourth Floor), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29the columns around the third floor from Colorado …

State Capitol (Rotunda - Third Floor), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and the grand staircases from Alabama.

State Capitol (Stairs to the Third Floor), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The dome’s interior rises 160’ above the floor.

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - c), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome - d), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Dome and Chandelier Lights- a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The chandelier is 12’ in diameter, is made of solid brass and weighs 4,000 lbs.

State Capitol (Rotunda Chandelier - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Chandelier - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Rotunda Chandelier - c), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The most ornate room is the Governor’s Reception Room. 

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

At each end of the room are ornamental fireplaces with Arkansas marble mantles, each framed by identical carved heads … those at the east end representing the state’s historic Native American populations

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room - d), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room - Fireplace Carving - Native Americans), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and at the west end they call to mind early European explorers.

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room - c), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room - Fireplace Carving - Eurpoean Explorers), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29decorative beams,

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room Decorative Beams), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29stain glass door panels

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room Stain Glass Door Windows), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29silver chandelier,

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room Chandelier), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and inlaid wooden floors add to the rooms beautiful décor.

State Capitol (Governor's Reception Room Inlaid Floor), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Throughout the building, as is typical of nearly every capitol, are photographs, or busts, of former governors … tow of which are easy to identify.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee

State Capitol (Portrait of Governor Mike Huckabee), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Former Governor Bill Clinton

State Capitol (Portrait of Governor Bill Clinton), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Although, as is the case in the vast majority of states, the Supreme Court is located in a separate judicial center located nearby the Capitol.  However, while the Original Supreme Court Chambers are used for hearings today, it is still decorated close to when the court regularly met there.  Original furnishing include its brass handrails, mahogany “bar”, light fixtures, and high-backed judges’ chairs (increased from 5 to 7 in 1920 when the court size was increased).

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber - Original), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Shapes and symbols drawn from classical architecture ornamentation decorate the chamber’s ceilings and cornices.  The latter feature a recurring pattern of three metopes, or decorative panels, bearing the symbols believed to illustrate principals of justice and law.

State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber -Decorative Shields - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29Green shield (defense or watchfulness)

Terra Cotta Lamp  (the lamp is a traditional symbol of wisdom or enlightenment, the guiding principal of true justice and good law)

The Gray Shield (The anchor represents safety and sureness while the dolphin is variously described as symbolizing truth, intelligence, amity and purity.   Intertwined, the mean “more haste- less speed” implying good law must balance timeliness and diligence)

The 35-member Senate Chamber is traditional and voting is not done electronically, but by voice vote (something we’ve discovered is fairly common in State Senates in the West).

State Capitol (Senate Chamber), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Chandelier is a small duplicate of the one in the Rotunda

State Capitol (Senate Chamber Chandelier), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The stain glass skylight is partially draped as a noise baffle

State Capitol (Senate Chamber Skylight), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The100-seat House Chamber was locked and the Gallery undergoing renovations so we were only able to see it through the entrance doors.

State Capitol (House Chamber - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

It too has a stain glass skylight and chandelier larger than the one in the Senate but smaller than the one in the Rotunda

State Capitol (House Chamber Skylight), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Four murals hang above the two grand staircases leading to the House and Senate Chambers, respectively.  They are the only public artwork commissioned for the building.  Over the Senate staircase are

State Capitol (Mural - Education), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29Education

State Capitol (Mural - Justice), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29Justice

And over the House stairs are the seemingly oxymorons of

State Capitol (Mural - Religion), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29Religion

State Capitol (Mural - War), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29War

There are a series of interesting exhibits in the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands including land records dating back to the beginning of the state as a Territory.

State Capitol (Land Office - Original Plats), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The Office of the State Treasurer was extremely interesting with its original vault (not just the safe door).

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office - Safe Door - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The vault is secured by a series of two doors and three time locks. 

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office - Safe Door - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

The 22,000 lb. main vault door presented a stiff challenge to construction crews.  Ultimately, after conventional animal-drawn wagons proved unable to move it from the railroad to the capitol a dedicate rail spur was laid and then it was hoisted through a hole in the west wall using blocks and tackle and a steam engine.

The main vault door, once locked cannot be opened after hours until the next business days and controlled by four independent and synchronized time locks.  We wondered what would happen if someone was accidentally locked in the vault over night or, worse, over a weekend.  There was a solution … a mechanical (now driven by an electric motor) air pump.

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Emergency Air Vent), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

 While there, Dennis Milligan, the State Treasurer, spend 15-20 minutes chatting with us … not the first time state officials have taken time to talk to us.

Once inside the safe, they have hand-written cash journals dating to 1899,

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Journals), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Oldest Journal - 1899), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Exquisite handwriting!

two inner vaults where gold bullion was once stored,

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Inner Safe for Gold Bars - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Inner Safe for Gold Bars - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29a pre-Prohibition whiskey bottle uncovered during a renovation of the building,

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Pre-Prohibition Whiskey Bottle), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and a safe containing perhaps $1,000,000 …

State Capitol (Treasurer's Office Safe  - Inner Safe for Cash), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Three Hundred and Eighty Thousand dollars of which were handed to Debbie!

2016-08-29 - Dick and Debbie with $380,000 in Cash, State House Treasurer's Office Safe, Little Rock, AR

Unfortunately, no samples were being handed out today!

 On the Capitol grounds:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Arkansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Confederate Soldiers of Arkansas Monument

State Capitol Grounds (Confederate Soldiers of Arkansas), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Confederal Women of Arkansas

State Capitol Grounds (Confederate Women of Arkansas Monument), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

War of 1812 Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Arkansas War of 1812 Memorial), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

American Legion Eternal Flame Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (American Legion Eternal Flame - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Replica of the Liberty Bell

State Capitol Grounds (Liberty Bell Replica), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Arkansas Medal of Honor Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Medal of Honor Memorial - Eight of Twenty-six Plaques), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-2912 of 26 Plaques

State Capitol Grounds (Medal of Honor Memorial - Douglas MacArthur Plaque), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29General Douglas MacArthur

Fire Fighters Memorial

State Capitol Grounds (Fire Fighters Memorial - a), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

State Capitol Grounds (Fire Fighters Memorial - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Little Rock Nine

State Capitol Grounds (Little Rock Nine Memorial - b), Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

We’d originally planned to next visit the Central High School

Central High School

Museum which tells the story of the civil rights movement in Arkansas with a primary on the nine black students to tried to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High in 1957.  While the Brown v. Board of Education had been the law for three years at the time, then Governor Orville Faubus called out the state’s National Guard to block any attempts to integrate Central High School.  Woodrow Wilson Mann, the mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students.  On September 24, the President ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, without its black soldiers, who rejoined the division a month later, to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Governor Faubus.

Central Students

This was one of the dark period of American history which we lived through and watched unfold on the evening news!

Meantime, we had connected with Bill and Sonja McCauley,

2016-08-29 - Dick and Debbie with Bill and Sonja McCauley, Little Rock, ARone of the incredible couples we’d traveled to Alaska with in 2011 and who live in Little Rock.  So, we quickly canceled our afternoon plans a drove to their beautiful home with its views in all directions,

View (b) from Sonja and Bill McCauley's House, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29 flowers (Sonja has an incredible green thumb),

[Unknown] Purple Flower, Sonja and Bill McCauley's, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

[Unknown] White Flower, Sonja and Bill McCauley's, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

[Unknown] Orange and Pink Flowers, Sonja and Bill McCauley's, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

Pink Flox, Sonja and Bill McCauley's, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29

White and Pink Flox, Sonja and Bill McCauley's, Little Rock, AR - 2016-08-29and more hummingbirds that we’d ever seen in one place before.

Hummingbird (c), Bill and Sonja McCauleys, Little Rock, AR - 2106-08-29

Hummingbird (g), Bill and Sonja McCauleys, Little Rock, AR - 2106-08-29

Hummingbird (b), Bill and Sonja McCauleys, Little Rock, AR - 2106-08-29

Hummingbird (a), Bill and Sonja McCauleys, Little Rock, AR - 2106-08-29

Hummingbird (e), Bill and Sonja McCauleys, Little Rock, AR - 2106-08-29

Now, we’ve got more reasonsthan ever to return to Little Rock in the future!

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