Sept 17 – Rhode Island State Capitol in Providence (#49)

Today we made the relatively short car trip from Foxborough to Providence to tour Rhode Island's State House, the 49th in our quest for visit all 50.

Rhode Island's current State Capitol building is its seventh state house and the second in Providence after the Old Rhode Island State House.

Internet Photo

Situated prominently on Smith Hill, the State Capitol building is the most visible landmark in the city. 

Internet Aerial Photo

The cornerstone was laid in 1895

and State House was finally completed in1901.  The building in 330 feet long, 180 feet wide and stands 235 feet in height.  Constructed of white Georgia marble with a central dome and two wings in which the Senate and House chambers are located, similar to the nation’s capital.  the Rhode Island State House is constructed of 327,000 cubic feet of white Georgia marble, 15 million bricks, and 1,188 tons of iron floor beams

Quotations and chronologies of the history of the state are carved into the marble over the porticoes.

Atop the dome stands the gold-covered “Independent Man”, a 15 foot statue weighing 5,000 lbs. and standing 278 feet above the ground. 

Apparently, the original intent was to have a statue of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, but no likenesses of him existed.  The sculpture originally intended to name the statue "Hope", but once in place, a local newspaper used the name Independence Man in an article.    And it stuck!  The statue freedom, independence and religious tolerance and alludes to the independent spirit which led Roger Williams to settle and establish Providence Plantation and later the Colony of Rode Island and Providence Plantations..

While the main entrance is located on State Street on the north side of the building

It's dome is the fourth largest self supporting marble dome in the world.  The largest is St. Peter's in the Vatican, followed by the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

the Capitol’s official front is its south façade.

Commodore Oliver Perry

General Nathanel Greene

Flanking the security aera as you enter the building are two Civil War cannons.

This cannon was used in the Battle of Bull Run (also knon as the First Manassas Junciton) in 1861.  While the cannon is authentic, its carriage has been reconstructed.

This cannon saw service in 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg

Not only did a confederate cannon ball damaged one of the carriage's wheels

Another shot miraculously struck the muzzle of the cannon

The heat from the prior firing of the cannon and strike from Confederate shot resulted in the next ball being inserted in to the Union cannon to beomce stuck.  After residing in the State House for decades, a tourist visiting the Capitol in the 1960s remembered that before loading a cannon ball, black powder needed to be put down the muzzle of the cannon … and that it was highly likely there was powder still inside it.  Further, over time any powder in the gun might become more unstable and might be subject to heating to a point it could explode.  So, the cannon was removed to a safe place where small holes were drilled into the canon where it was discovered that it did contain black powder.  It was removed and the cannon discharged and rendered safe before returning it to the State House

On the same level across the building were …

Rhode Island's Liberty Bell replica

Gettysburg Address

Tribute to the state's residents who lost their ives in Vietnam

John Sullivan (1740 – 1795) was an Irish-American Revolutionary War Major General and delegate to the Continental Congress, Governor of New Hampshire.  He was the third son of American settlers.  He commanded the Sullivan Expedition in 1779, a scorched-earth campaign against the Iroquois towns that had taken up arms against the American revolutionaries.  In early 1778 he was transferred Rhode Island where he led Continental troops and militia  It was intended he work together with a French Navy fleet to assault or besiege British-held  Newport, RI which was regarded as extremely vulnerable since France's entry into the war. The attempt was called off when the French fleet was scattered and damaged by a storm.  Owing to the damage to his ships, and discouraged by the arrival of a British fleet the French withdrew to Boston. The debacle did not badly affect Sullivan's career, and he was considered as a potential commander for a possible invasion of Canada.

There are two ways of acccessing the second floor, the elevator with its original decorative brass doors

and the marble stairs

to the enormous rotunda.

In the center of the floor is a gold State Seal

 In 1664 The Rhode Island General Assembly first adopted a seal for its colony.  It contained an anchor with the word "Hope" (the colony's, now state's motto) above it.  The use of the word "Hope" was probably inspired by the biblical phrase "hope we have as an anchor of the soul." The seal also contains Rhode Island's full name: "Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" (the longest name of any state).

Naarby is a compass rose

which is oriented such that North is perpendicular to the north side of the State House.  However, as the arrow suggests, the orientaiton is not precisely north.

Then looking upward to the 50-foot wide rotunda

Near the top of the rotunda dome is a beautiful mural depicting Roger Williams colonizing Providence Plantaion, making peace with the native tribes, and surrounded by fellow colonists and natives, including Narragansette Sachem Canonicus

At the top of the four columns which support the dome are murals depicting four values of the State





Ceiling above the the third floor halls surrounding the rotunda

Looking toward the second floor State Reception Room from the third floor

The State Reception Room, part of Governor's office and a formal reception area for many official funcitons, is the most elegant part of the State House.

It has a dramatic, gilded high ceiling, gold-crowned marble pilasters,

a crystal chandelier,

two large fireplaces

brass floor lamps

original red velvet covered seating around the perimeter of the room

other original furniture

the flag Apollo-11 took to the moon in 1969 as well as five tiny pieces of moon rock

a memorial box to the Battle of Iwo Jima

The two vials on the left contain sand from the 1945 beaches of Iwo Jima

and four large paintings of 

George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart

Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene

War of 1812 hero, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry

Commodore John Barry, generally considered the "father of the U.S. Navy"

The State Library … which is unusual as it is open to the public, although not for lending … is a magnificanly decorated room which contains roughly 30,000 volumes and has the offical documents of the United States as well as the Colony's and later State's records and legislative and judicial history (just a third of the State's total volumes).

Spiral stair cases in the four corners of the room

The oldest volume (far left) dates to 1636

The plasters are emblellished with golf-leaf reproductions of 16 printer's marks of famous printers who worked their craft in Eurpoe from roughly 1474 to 1620.

Library's official clock

Both the Senate and House chambers are undergoing major refurbrising

and unfortunately are not open.  All we were able to see were a photo of the House Chamber

and a grainy photo of the Senate Chamber (where senators must vote "Aye" or "Nay" and cannot abstain) I was able to pull up off the Internet.

Along the hallways are a number of statues honoring each of the branches of our Armed Forces

U.S. Navy

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps Combat Engineers

U.S. Army

U.S. Air Force

and MY Commander-in-Chief

and busts, plaques and paitings (inluding all of the State's governors) of famous people.

Elizabeth Buffum Chase – Abolitionist, Suffragette – Educator

Christiana Carleaux Bannister – Abolitionist, Activist and Entrepreneur

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Giovanni da Verrazzano was an Italian explorer of North America, in the service of King Francis I of France. He is renowned as the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America between Florida and New Brunswick in 1524, including New York Bay and Narragansett Bay.  When he saw Narragansett Bay, he commented that it reminded him of Rhodes in the Mediteranean … thus it helped define the state's ultimate name.

Governor WIlliam Sprague IV who while serving as governor when the Civil War broke out volunteered for service and proclaimes his heorism … although memners of the Rohde Island regiments with which Sprague said he served had no knowledge of ever seeing him.

There are four books in which are listed the names of all Rhode Islanders who died during World War II

and an empty chair remembering our Vietnam War POWs and MIAs

Historically, the "Museum" is the most interesting.  It contains many original artifacts and historical documents.  However as they are kept under special environmental and lighting conditions, photography was extremely difficult.

6,000 (circa) stone axe

Remnants of the original, document signed between Roger Williams and the Narragansett tribes to acquire land for the Providence Plantation

Roger Wiliams wallet

Reporductions of documents granting land for the formation of the Providence Plantation by King Charles II

Page 1 of 3 of King Charles II's granting the creation of the Providence Plantation in 1663 (the other pages are also on display)

King Charles II's original seal case and a reproduction of his official seal (the original is in the state archives for preservation)

Portrait of Quakrer activist Mary Dwyer – subsequently executed in the Puriain Massachusetts Bay Colony on May 26, 1647 for refusing to renounce her faith


Our trip to and from Providence produced a few humorous and other sights of interest.

Some of the narrow strets in the area of the Old State House

St. John Episcopal Church

Temple of Restoration Church in neighboring Pawtucket

Bridge mural

Local Hotel "mascot"

Great logo for a local plumbing company

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