September 1, 2016 – Tennessee State Capitol

The State of Franklin (also the Free Republic of Franklin) was an unrecognized, autonomous territory located in what is today eastern Tennessee, United States.  Franklin was created in 1784 from part of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains that had been offered by North Carolina as a cession to Congress to help pay off debts related to the American War for Independence.   It was founded with the intent of becoming the fourteenth state of the new United States.  The Territory eventually became Tennessee which was admitted to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796.

Six of Tennessee's cities have served as the capital of the State. Two cities have been the capital more than once, while one city was the capital for only one day.

  • Jonesborough – was founded in 1779 and is the oldest city in the state, Jonesborough became the capital of the State of Franklin in December 1784. Franklin functioned as a state until 1788, but was never recognized by Congress.

  • Greeneville – was the second capital of the State of Franklin was Greeneville. Greeneville was founded in 1783 and served as the capital of Franklin from 1785-1788.

  • Knoxville – was the capital of the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio from 1792 until 1796. Knoxville served as the capital of Tennessee on two occasions, the first time from 1796 until 1812 and then a second time from 1817 to 1818.

  • Kingston – was the capital of Tennessee for just one day!  On September 21, 1807, the Tennessee General Assembly met in Kingston, declared it to be the State's capital, passed one item, and then adjourned.  That one item was the acquisition of Cherokee territory that was known as Fort Southwest Point. The Indians had ceded the land around the Fort to the State with the provision that it would be named the State capital, which it was, but only for one day. Before the Indians realized that they had been tricked, the capital was moved back to Knoxville.

  • Murfreesboro – was Tennessee's capital city from 1818 until 1826. The capital was moved to the middle of the State as the population moved to the middle and western grand divisions of Tennessee.

  • Nashville – the current capital of Tennessee began as Fort Nashborough in 1779 and was incorporated as the City of Nashville in 1806. Nashville was the capital of Tennessee twice. The first time was from 1812-1817. In 1826, Nashville became the permanent capital of the State of Tennessee.

The prominent Nashville hill top site of what is now the Tennessee State Capitol was formerly occupied by the Holy Rosary Cathedral , the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in Nashville.

Tennessee State Capitol (a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Selected by Samuel Morton (left), architect William Stirckland (right)

Tennessee State Capitol (Portrait Samuel Morgan and William Strickland), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01designed the Greek-Revival style building and supervised its construction until his untimely death in 1854, five years before its completion.

Tennessee State Capitol (aa), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01and is one of the nation’s oldest working statehouses still in use.

The walls were constructed of Bigby Limestone from a nearby quarry, only a few blocks away.  The limestone was excavated, shaped and transported by slaves and convict labor under the supervision of stone masons.   Regarded as a prime example of Greek Revival architecture it is more than 206 feet tall and covers an area of 112 feet by 239 feet.   It's copied from an Ionic temple, with porticos on the north and south facades, each with eight fluted columns. The east and west porticos have six columns surmounted by parapets.

Tennessee State Capitol (Cupola - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (US and Tennessee Flags - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

House Chambers

Tennessee State Capitol (House Chamber - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-0199 members

Tennessee State Capitol (House Chamber Chandelier - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Chandelier

Tennessee State Capitol (House Chamber Door), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Chamber Doors

Senate Chambers

Tennessee State Capitol (Senate Chamber - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-0133 Members

Tennessee State Capitol (Senate Chamber Chandelier), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Chandelier

Original Supreme Court Chambers

Tennessee State Capitol (Sopreme Court's Original Chamber), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Supreme Court (Chambers - Chandelier), Nashville, TN - 2016-9-01Chandelier

Tennessee State Supreme Court (Door Knob), Nashville, TN - 2016-9-01Door Knob

Tennessee State Capitol (Supreme Court Chamber Painting of Famous Tennesseans), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Painting of Famous Tennesseans  –  How many can you name?

Current Supreme Court Chambers

Tennessee State Supreme Court (Chambers), Nashville, TN - 2016-9-01Housed in a building across the street from the State Capitol

Tennessee State Supreme Court (Seal on Floor), Nashville, TN - 2016-9-01Supreme Court Seal

Murals on the Walls of the Governor’s Outer Office Depicting the History of the State

Tennessee State Capitol (Governor's Outer Office Mural - a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (Governor's Outer Office Mural - b), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (Governor's Outer Office Mural - d), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (Governor's Outer Office Mural - c), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Original State Library (the repository of all of Tennessee’s state legislative records)

Tennessee State Capitol (Former State Library - State Record Stacks), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (Former State Library - Spiral Staircase), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Cast Iron Spiral Staircase

Tennessee State Capitol (Former State Library - Spiral Staircase - Detail), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Which was delivered in small pieces and sections which had to be screwed and bolted together

Tennessee State Capitol (Former State Library - Marble Table), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Original Marble Table

Tennessee State Capitol (Former State Library - Doors), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01Entrance Doors

The focal point of the center intersection on the first floor is a chandelier

Tennessee State Capitol (1st Floor Center Ceiling handelier), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01surrounded by four ceiling frescos.

An American Eagle surrounded by 31 stars representing the number of states in the union at the time

Tennessee State Capitol (1st Floor Center Ceiling Fresco - American Eagle and 31 Stars), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01


Tennessee State Capitol (1st Floor Center Ceiling Fresco - Justice), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01


Tennessee State Capitol (1st Floor Center Ceiling Fresco - Liberty), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

The State Seal depicting the state motto “Agriculture and Commerce

Tennessee State Capitol (1st Floor Center Ceiling Fresco - State Seal), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Half way up the first flight of stairs to the second floor

Tennessee State Capitol (2nd Floor Hallway), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01 on the right is a chip in the hand rail and gouge in a nearby column.

Tennessee State Capitol (Staircase Railing), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol (Bullet Scared Railing and Column), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

These scars are believed to have been caused by a bullet fired from the stairs above during a particularly bitter fight in the legislature over the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1866 which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans.  The opponents of passage did not have the votes to prevent its adoption and, as a result of its passage, Tennessee became the first Confederate state re-admitted to the Union.

On the landing is a bust of George Washington.

Tennessee State Capitol (George Washington - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

On the second floor, busts of

President Andrew Jackson,

Tennessee State Capitol (President Andrew Jackson - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

President James Polk

Tennessee State Capitol (President James Polk - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01


President Andrew Johnson

Tennessee State Capitol (President Andrew Johnsonn - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01are prominently displayed, as are their paintings one floor below.

The busts of other Tennessee notables include;

Admiral David Farragut

(“Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead”)

Tennessee State Capitol (Admiral David Farragut - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Confederate General Nathan Forrest

(a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He is remembered as a self-educated, brutal, and innovative cavalry leader during the war and as a leading Southern advocate in the postwar years. He served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but later distanced himself from the organization.)

Tennessee State Capitol (Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Forrest - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Cordell Hull

(Secretary of State under FDR during World War II – U.S. Senator, Congressman and Captain in Fourth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry)

Tennessee State Capitol (Cordell Hull - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01


(his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, make reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was one of the very few times in recorded history hat a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system which was adopted by the Cherokee Nation in 1925.  Within a few years, literacy among the Cherokee exceeded that of the white population in Tennessee  His image is also prominently recognized in the Oklahoma State Capitol)

Tennessee State Capitol (Seqoyah - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

John Seiver

(an American soldier, frontiersman and politician, and one of the founding fathers of the State of  Tennessee. He played a leading role, both militarily and politically, in Tennessee's pre-statehood period, and was elected the state's first governor in 1796.  Sevier served as the only governor of  the State of Franklin, an early, unsuccessful, attempt at statehood by the trans-Appalachian settlers. He was brigadier general of the Southwest Territory militia during the early 1790s.  Sevier served six two-year terms as Tennessee's governor, from 1796 until 1801, and from 1803 to 1809, with term limits preventing a fourth consecutive term in both instances. His political career was marked by a growing rivalry with rising politician Andrew Jackson, which nearly culminated in a duel in 1803. After his last term as governor, Sevier was elected to three terms in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1811 until his death in 1815)

Tennessee State Capitol (John  Sevier, First Governor - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Admiral Albert Gleaves

(Born in Nashville, TennesseeGleaves graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1877. Assigned to many ships and stations, he commanded USS Cushing during the Spanish American War. Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1915,for his outstanding contribution he was awarded the Army and Navy Distinnguished Service Medals.  In 1919 he was promoted to Admiral Admiral Gleaves made outstanding contributions in the field of gunnery and torpedoes. While carrying out some tests on torpedo steering devices he changed these weapons from instruments of luck into instruments of precision. The gear which he tested in Gushing provided the imprints which made the torpedo the "terrible weapon" of World War I)

Tennessee State Capitol (Admiral Albert Gleaves- Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Simpson Keeble

(was born into slavery who became a barber and a businessman and in 1873 became the first African American member of the Tennessee Legislature.  The plaque beneath his bust also commemorates nine African Americans who followed him in to the state legislature in the mid-to-late 19th century)

Tennessee State Capitol (Sampson Keeble - Bust), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

During a 1988 hallway restoration, the ceilings were stripped of dirt and overpainting … and revealed the original design, color and brush strokes,

Tennessee State Capitol (Hallway Ceiling - Original Panel), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01compared to the reproduction found throughout most of the building.

Tennessee State Capitol (Hallway Ceiling - Retourched-up Panel), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Two bas-reliefs dominate the walls off the second floor lobby.

Commemoration of the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

Tennessee State Capitol (14th and 15th Amendments Relief Plaque), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01(the 14th guarantying African Americans citizenship and equal protection before the law.  The 15th provided for the men’s right to vote)

Commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Tennessee State Capitol (19th Amendment Relief Plaque), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01(The Tennessee Legislature became the final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.  This state’s House had been divided on the issue and the ratification passed by a single vote when an outspoken opponent of the amendment changed his vote on a third ballot to break the prior tie votes on the issue)

The Tennessee State Capitol also has the distinction of being the only one in which persons are interred within the walls of the building.  There are four people either buried inside the capitol walls or on the grounds. William Strickland became ill while the capitol was being constructed.  Since he considered it his finest achievement, Strickland asked to be buried in the Capitol building.  Strickland did die before the construction was complete, and he is buried in a crypt in the north wall.

Tennessee State Capitol (William Strickland Interment), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01The inscription is in error, he was actually 66 when he died

Later, after Samuel Morgan’s death, his family also asked that he be buried in the capitol.  As a way to honor Morgan, the state agreed.  He is buried in a crypt on the south wall. 


Tennessee State Capitol (Samuel Mogran Interment), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

As with most state capitol complexes, there are a number of statues, monuments and memorials on its grounds.

Alvin York

(the most decorated allied soldier during World War I)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Alvin York Statue), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Andrew Jackson

(Army General and 7th U.S. President)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Andrew Jackson Statue), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Andrew Johnson

(17th U.S. President)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Andrew Johnson Statue), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

The Tomb of James and Sarah Polk

(11th U.S. President … the only president interred on any state capitol grounds)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (James and Sarah Polk Tomb -a), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (James and Sarah Polk Tomb - b), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Replica of the Liberty Bell

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Liberty Bell), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Memorial to the Holocaust

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Holocaust Memorial), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Memorial to the African American Victims of the Middle Passage

Tennessee State Capito Groundsl (Memorial to the Victims of the Middle Pasage), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Sam Davis

(served in various combat roles in the Confederate army from 1861-63 during the Civil War. As a Confederate courier he was captured around November 20, 1863. Suspected of espionage, he was offered his life if he would name is conspirators, to which he replied, “I would die a thousand deaths before I would betray a Friend”.  He was executed by the Union Army after a captivity of only seven days).

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Sam Davis Statue), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Edward Ward Carmack

(was an attorney, newspaperman and political figure who served as a U.S. Senator from 1901 to 1907.  Following his political service, and after an unsuccessful run for Governor of Tennessee, he became editor of the one-year-old Nashville Tennessean. He was shot to death on November 9, 1908 over a feud precipitated by his editorial comments in the paper)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Edward Ward Carmack Statue), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Answer Bell (As part of the Bicentennial Mall carillon project, the final bell, or answer bell, was installed and “answers” the 95 bells on the mall each hour)

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Answer Bell), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Plaque to the Daughters of the Confederacy

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (Daughters of the Confederacy Plaque), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

Garden Plantings of the State Flag

Tennessee State Capitol Grounds (State Flag Stars), Nashville, TN - 2016-09-01

The three stars represent the three Grand Divisions of the state, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee.  The blue circle around the stars represents the unity of the "Grand Divisions" of the state. The blue bar at the edge of the flag was purely a design consideration.

Tennessee Flag

When asked about the blue bar, Reeves stated that "The final blue bar relieves the sameness of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too much crimson when hanging limp."




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