Friday, July 5, 2013

Illinois State Capitols...Old and New

Springfield is the Capital City of Illinois. As such, it has a Capitol building. Ah! but Springfield actually has two, an old one preserved as it was when used as the Capitol, 1840-1876.  The new Capitol building was started in 1869 and was completed 20 years later in 1889. Cost of construction was $4,500,000 - that's 1889 dollars! The old Capitol is open to the public and offers free tours every half hour but the new Capitol, also open to the public, has no guided tours. You're free to conduct your own walking tour. We did both!

This is the current Capitol building in Springfield. Completed in 1889, it represents a French Renaissance architectural style. This building is the tallest non-skyscraper Capitol building in the United States at 361'. Also, a city statue prohibits any building in the city to be built higher than the Capitol. The building is shaped like a latin cross aligned to the major compass headings. It sits on a nine acre plot of land that make up the Capitol grounds. The capitol dome is covered in zinc which provides the silvery color and does not weather.

The interior of the dome features a plaster frieze which is painted to resemble bronze and illustrates different scenes from Illinois history. The seal featured in the top of the dome is the seal used by Illinois prior to the American Civil War. It differs from the current seal in that the phrase, "State Sovereignty" is above the phrase "National Union". After the war, the legislature voted to reverse these phrases as they felt the National Union was the more important concept.

We found the two building to be vastly different even though they were both constructed in the 1800s. This is the current Senate branch of the Legislature. Each of the stations contain a roll top desk. Balcony seating is for interested parties.

The House of Representative's branch does not garner quite the ambiance as the Senate room above. Notice there are no roll top desks and the seating is not quite as plush. Also, there is less seating for the public.

The new Capitol pays tribute to President Lincoln whose bronze statue watches over the East entrance to the building.

If this picture looks familiar, look no further than your pocketbook. The Lincoln penny has this building as a backdrop. This building was used by many government entities during its lifetime, and had been extensively altered. In 1966, it was decided to restore it to its original beauty. Workers completely dismantled the building stone by stone and rebuilt it as it was in 1860. This building continues to be used for ceremonial purposes. In 2007, Obama used the steps of this building to announce his candidacy for the Presidency.

Upon entering this beautiful building, you're greeted with this massive staircase leading to both branches of the legislature. There are also several small offices upstairs, one that houses the receiving room for the governor.

Each room has it's own tale to tell and has its own purpose. This was the State Auditor's office, which included a check written to  Abe Lincoln for his service to the State of Illinois. Many of the pictures and artifacts in these rooms are originals.

Proceeding through the Auditor's office, we found the meeting room and library. Here, one could discuss business and research information. The piping you see in each of these rooms is attached to wood burning stoves which served as heaters during the winter.

This is the Illinois House of Representatives chamber. It was here that Lincoln made his famous House Divided speech in 1858, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and on May 4, 1865, it was here his body lay in state prior to final burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 Also, in this building are several important artifacts. The poster you see here announced Lincoln's candidacy for President. Of interest was the fact that Lincoln's bust is shown on the poster. This bust was used several times but his face was changed as needed.
 The final artifact I found very interesting was this flag of the United States. Not really clear in this photo, it is worn about the edges and the lower quadrant has several tears in it. This flag flew over Vicksburg during the Civil War and was recovered after Vicksburg fell into Union hands.

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