This morning, we set out to visit the State Capitol in Des Moines. Nearing the city, it was immediately identifiable
as the only five-domed state capitol in the United States.
The main dome has been gilded five times since its completion in 1886. The 23¾ Karat gold is 1/250,000th of in inch thick … and if rolled together would make an object roughly the size of a baseball and weigh around 6 pounds.
This building is the fourth building to house Iowa’s government
The Old Brick Capitol (1857 – 1884) The capital was moved to Des Moines in 1857. A three-story brick building served at the state’s capitol for twenty-seven years. Destroyed by a fire in 1892, its site is presently occupied by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
The architectural design of the current Capitol, rectangular in form, with great windows and high ceilings, follows the traditional pattern of the nineteenth century planning for public buildings, a modified and refined Renaissance style which gives the impression of strength and dignity combined with utility.
The exterior of the building is entirely of stone with elaborate columns and handsomely designed cornices and capitals. Iowa stone is the foundation for the many porticoes of the building. The building is brick with limestone from Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois. The substructure is of dark Iowa stone topped by a heavy course of varied-colored granite cut from glacial boulders gathered from the Iowa prairie. The superstructure, or main part of the building, is of bluff colored sandstone from quarries along the Mississippi River in Missouri.
With a few exceptions, most of what passes for marble is actually Scagliola, is a composite substance made from selenite, glue and natural pigments, imitating marble and other hard stones. The material may be veined with colors and applied to a core, or desired pattern may be carved into a previously prepared scagliola matrix. The pattern's indentations are then filled with the colored, plaster-like scagliola composite, and then polished with flax oil for brightness, and wax for protection. The combination of materials and technique provides a complex texture, and richness of color not available in natural veined marbles.
Exceptions are found in the Governor’s reception office
and in the main columns supporting the Capitol’s dome.
When entering the Rotunda you immediately look up.
A closer look shows the American Flag as of the time of the Civil War and the dates 1861-1865 which appears to be painted on the blue sky background.
Upon further inspection, you discover that the flag and dates are suspended by wires well below the painting.
In the west hall is one of the two bells from Battleship USS Iowa (BB-61)
and a scale model (1/4”= 1 foot) measuring 18 feet 7 inches long and weighing about 1,350 pounds.
The Iowa was the lead ship of her battleship class and the fourth named in honor of the 29th state. It is also the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Theater during World War II. She is also unique in having an elevator which was installed to accommodate President Roosevelt who traveled aboard enroute to the Yalta Conference with Stalin and Churchill.
In the east wing, there is a case depicting each of Iowa’s First Ladies in the gowns they wore to their husband’s inauguration.
Above the display is a panoramic photograph of Iowans who had returned from World War I assembled at the State Capitol. Originally in black-and-white, portions were subsequently colorized.
Twelve statues, high within the rotunda, beginning north of the library door, represent History, Science, Law, Fame, Art, Industry, Peace, Commerce, Agriculture, Victory, Truth, and Justice … and are interspersed with lunettes, or half-moon-shaped paintings, surrounding the rotunda are the work of Kenyon Cox, famous American artist. They include: Hunting, Herding, Agriculture, the Forge, Commerce, Education, Science, and Art. They are allegorical and indicate the progress of civilization.
The marble grand staircase between the second and third floors is the focal point of the building.
The grand staircase ascends to a tiled landing
and divides north and south
Above the landing and extending the full width of the wall is the great mural painting, "Westward,"
an idealized representation of the coming of the people who made Iowa.
"The main idea of the picture is a symbolical presentation of the Pioneers led by the spirits of Civilization and Enlightenment to the conquest by cultivation of the Great West. Considered pictorially, the canvas shows a prairie schooner drawn by oxen across the prairie. The family ride upon the wagon or walk at its side. Behind them and seen through the growth of stalks of corn at the right, come crowding the other pioneers and later men. In the air and before the wagon are floating four female figures; one holds the shield with the arms of the State of Iowa upon it; one holds a book symbolizing enlightenment; two others carry a basket and scatter the seeds which are symbolical of the change from wilderness to plowed fields and gardens that shall come over the prairie. Behind the wagon and also floating in the air, two female figures hold respectively a model of a stationary steam engine and of an electro dynamo to suggest the forces which come with the later men. In the right hand corner of the picture, melons, pumpkins, etc., among which stand a farmer and a girl, suggest that here is the fringe of cultivation and the beginning of the prairie. At the left a buffalo skull rather emphasizes this suggestion."
Lieutenant Governor’s Reception Office
Governor’s Formal Reception Office
Old Supreme Court Chamber
State Four-story Law Library
House and Senate Internal Mail Routing System
Immediately surrounding the Capitol building are more than two dozen monuments, memorials and other items dedicated to specific individuals or events. Among these are:
Abe and Tad (named for Lincoln's father, died at age 18) Lincoln
In 1917, friends of Senator William B. Allison, citizens and school children of Iowa, and the state Legislature funded this memorial. A pivotal figure in Iowa's Republican party, Allison (1829-1908) represented Iowa in Congress for 43 years. He was twice a candidate for the presidential nomination of his party and was a close associate of every United States president from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt
Grand Army of the Republic Sundial
This bronze sundial was dedicated to Union veterans of the Civil War during their 1938 Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) encampment in Des Moines. Of the nearly three million Union soldiers who fought during the Civil War, only an estimated 5,000 were still living in 1938, and more than 100 of these veterans attended this 72nd encampment. Most were over 90 years old.
The Italian-American community in Iowa donated this monument to the state in 1938. It was financed by individual contributions. A bronze bust of Columbus, the Italian discoverer of America, rests between classical granite pillars.
Korean War Memorial
The monument, erected on a grassy area south of the Capitol, includes a 14-foot-tall central obelisk and eight 6-foot-tall tablets which tell the story of the Korean War utilizing words, pictures, and maps of Korea engraved in granite.
The 22,000-pound mortar was cast in 1861 at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania. It was mounted on the North Atlantic Squadron gunboat "Matthew Vassar" and used in the bombardment of Forts St. Phillip and Jackson (1862) and of Vicksburg (1863) during the Civil War. The mortar was given to the state as a reminder of that war.
Pioneer Statuary Group and Buffalo Head Fountain
"The Pioneer of the former territory, a group consisting of father and son guided by a friendly Indian in search of a home." The pioneer depicted was to be hardy, capable of overcoming the hardships of territorial days to make Iowa his home. Originally designed to be a lion's head, this bronze buffalo head was determined more appropriate to Iowa's prairie environment. The fountain was made for drinking-for horses as well as humans.
Purple Heart Memorial
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin. It is specifically a combat decoration.
Revolutionary War Memorial
This monument, presented by the Iowa Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, features a central obelisk inscribed with the names of 39 Revolutionary War veterans who are buried in Iowa. It is surrounded by 13 granite pillars with patriotic quotations dedicated to the original colonies. Between the pillars are planted wild roses, Iowa's state flower.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
The memorial was chosen over 47 others, although she died before the monument was completed. Both authentic and symbolic figures are portrayed. "Victory" is the most prominent figure, topping the 135-foot structure.
Infantryman Shelby Norman, who, at the age of 18, was the first Iowan killed in battle; Ensign William H.C. Michael, a school teacher turned sailor; Artilleryman Captain Henry H. Griffiths, whose battery never lost a gun throughout the war; and Cavalryman Lt. James Horton, killed while leading a saber charge at the battle of Lovejoy Station.
Nearly 80,000 Civil War military men were from Iowa, the largest number of soldiers per capita of any state participating during the war. On the east and west sides, noted Iowa generals and battle scenes are pictured along the base. On the north side, a youthful “Mother Iowa” offers nourishment to her children.
To the south, "History" gazes into the future, and "Iowa" is portrayed as a youngster.
Statue of Liberty
World War II
The Holocaust Memorial was installed on the West Capitol Terrace in June 2013. The design of ribbons of aluminum in concrete, with prairie grasses, is intended to be an abstract representation of a Holocaust survivor's journey. The struggle for survival and perseverance in the face of oppression are described in text samples along the memorial.
Our next stop was Terrace Hill, also known as Hubbell Mansion, Benjamin F. Allen House, and Iowa Governor's Mansion, is the official residence of the Governor of Iowa.
Terrace Hill was built by Benjamin Franklin Allen, the first millionaire in Iowa, as a home for his family. Construction began in 1866, and was finished in 1869. The total cost of the project was $250,000 for the Mansion, the Carriage House, the original furnishings, and about 30 acres of land. The house had very modern features for its time, which included hot and cold running water, indoor restrooms, an elevator, and gas lights.
After Allen lost his fortune he sold the mansion to Frederick Hubbell, a prominent Des Moines real estate, railroad and insurance magnate. The home remained in the care of the Hubbell family until 1971 when they donated Terrace Hill to the State of Iowa to be used as the official governor’s residence.
Surprisingly, we were advised that no photos were permitted inside the residence … the first such restriction among all of the governors’ mansions we’re toured. The following photos are either pictures I took of a brochure on Terrace Hill or from the Internet. Unfortunately, the do not do the property justice!
The first floor of Terrace Hill is a formal area. The rooms on the first floor were used often for reception of important guests, a tradition which continues.
The Vestibule is the entry area to the mansion. Formerly, a servant would greet guests in the Vestibule. They would enter through two sets of doors there that weigh more than 200 pounds each.
From there, guests would be taken to the Reception Room.
Guests would wait while their presence was announced to the owners, and the host or hostess would greet them in that room.
Across the hall is the Drawing Room.
At one time it was used for weddings and funerals of the home's residents. Now the room is used for important events – which include entertaining of foreign dignitaries. The room also features a 7.5 foot crystal chandelier, and hand-carved, laminated, rosewood Belter furniture.
The Music Room was previously an entertainment room. Young women would usually play music in this room. The room features a Steinway "Music Room Grand" from 1869 – the same year the house was completed.
The Dining Room was used for formal dinners by the previous owners of the home. Today the Dining Room continues to be used for state dinners and receptions. Food served in the dining room is prepared in the kitchen in the basement.
The Library was another important room on the first floor. It served originally as the gathering place for the men of the home, and as a storage place for knowledge. The room contains several interesting items, which include F. M. Hubbell's leather chair. Because he was only just over 5 feet tall, the chair sits close to the floor to accommodate him.
At the end of the Main Hall on the First Floor, there is a grand staircase
that leads up to the Second Floor, with a landing in between. At the landing between the First and Second Floors, there is a stained glass window. The window is often described as "garden in glass"
and measures 9 by 13 feet This window colors the landing and part of the staircase with colorful light. The window was added by F. M. Hubbell between 1884 and 1890.
After the landing, the staircase divides into two approaches to the Second Floor.
Originally the Second Floor served as the bedrooms for most of the family. Now the formal office of the Governor is located on the Second Floor (his working office is located at the Capital).
The First Lady's office is also located on the Second Floor. Her office is not normally part of tours because she uses the office as her working office for writing speeches, scheduling appearances, and planning special events.
The Governor of Iowa and his family live in the private apartment on the third floor of the house. This floor is not normally open to tours; it opens only for special events, such as fundraisers for restoration or holiday tours.
The Basement, like the Third Floor, is also not open to the public. The Governor, his family, and certain staff members have a private entrance in the basement. A kitchen located in the basement prepares meals for special events.
While not permitted to take indoor photos, we could use our camera outside.
Maiden Overlooking Pool (now under renovaiton)
We had planned on going to the botanical gardens as a final stop after talking to the Terrace Hill tour guide and a couple on our State Capitol tour, we opted to visit Salisbury House,
a Tudor, Gothic and Carolean style manor home. It was built by cosmetic magnate Carl Weeks (founder of
an incredibly successful company manufacturing personal skin care products)
and his wife, Edith Van Slyke Weeks, between 1923 and 1928. Salisbury House was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England.
The decorative blocks
are made from chalk-covered flint stones
found only at the White Cliffs of Dover, England.
It contains 42 rooms and measures just over 22,000 square feet. Modern conveniences of the 1920s including indoor plumbing, refrigeration, central heating and telephones added a contemporary infrastructure to the classic (and in our opinion, very mismatched) architecture.
Unfortunately, the confluence of the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression, combined with a long-running suit between Armand and the Federal Trade Commission, negatively impacted his sizeable fortune. Moreover, an out-of-court settlement related to an automobile fatality caused by one his sons and changed property tax laws quickly called into question the Weeks family’s ability to maintain Salisbury.
Ever the savvy businessman, Carl Weeks brokered an innovative solution. In 1934, the family donated Salisbury House to Drake University, while retaining its furnishings and collections. Under the terms of the agreement, the Weekses
would continue to live in the house as tenants until their youngest son graduated from college.
You enter through the Great Hall with its architectural features from the 13th century.
View from the balcony
Our next stop in the meandering house was the Common Room where the Weeks would entertain guests.
Next, along a hallway there is a model of Columbus’ flagship, Santa Maria. It is believed the ship dates to 1794 and is constructed of wood canvas and twine.
Off the hallway is the Dining Room
At some point the near-end of the dining room’s English oak table was cut down from a rectangular into a trapezoidal shape to permit those seated along the sides to be able to see everyone else at the table.
Other notable rooms included the Queen Anne Guest Room and adjoining bathroom,
Edith Weeks’ Dressing Room,
Carl Weeks’ Bedroom and Bathroom,
and the Kitchen.
Back at our campground, adjacent to and part of Adventureland, a typical theme park, we were able to watch and even listen to the screams of kids and adults on several of the rides, three of which were visible from right outside our motorhome’s door.
The Storm Chaser
The Sky Monster goes 65 mph takes riders upside down five times and over and under the skyride a total of eight times in feature with the only negative-G stall loop in the Western Hemisphere which leaves riders with the sensation that they're falling out of the coaster. All this in an eternity of 110 seconds.
Were we thinking about joining the “fun”? No on your life!