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Photograph courtesy Philip Greenspun.

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Idaho State Capitol

Built: 1905-1920
Cost: $2,098,500.00
Designed by: J.E. Tourtellotte and Company
Type: Government Building
Maximum Height: 208 feet / 63 meters
Boise, United States
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L ike many other capitols in the United States, this one is modeled after the neoclassical style of the national capitol in Washington, D.C. But there are a couple of significant differences. The most noticeable, but only from a close distance, is that the base of the building has been modeled to look like a log cabin. This is the result of the way the sandstone slabs were cut. And inside, rather than using real marble, the columns are covered with a substance called "scagliola." This is a mixture of granite, marble dust, gypsum and glue. The whole mess is then dyed to look like marble. It held up well for about fifty years, but had to be repaired by injecting a mixture of marble dust and glue into the cracks with hypodermic needles. It is probably best to let the people of the State of Idaho describe the rest of the capitol. The following is a corrected excerpt from their web site:

First Floor - From the center of the rotunda on the ground floor, one can look upward to the dome to see thirteen large stars which represent the thirteen original colonies and forty-three smaller stars which indicate that Idaho was the forty-third state to enter the union. In the rotunda is a large statue entitled "the Patriot", sculpted with a welding torch by Kenneth Lonn, a resident of the Silver Valley. He dedicated this work to the men and women of Idaho's mining industry. In the east wing is the office of the state treasurer, where an original vault containing a large 1905 manganse safe is still in use. Portraits of previous treasurers are displayed in the office.

Second Floor - There are three impressive entrances to the second floor, from the east, the south, and the west. On the south side of the rotunda is the portico, or main entrance. This is also known as the ceremonial entrance, for it is here that important visitors are greeted and inaugurations are held. A replica of the Liberty Bell, molded in France, stands at the base of the stairs. The bell was given to the State by the Department of the Treasury in 1950. Two giant spheres of Vermont granite flank the thirty-three steps of this entrance. Just inside the portico stands a replica of the statue "Winged Victory of Samothrace." It was sent by France in 1949. The original marble statue stands in the Louvre in Paris. The governor's suite of offices is located in the west wing. On the wall of the hallway adjacent to the governor's office hang portraits of previous governors of the state. The opposite wall holds a display of flags which were carried by Idaho regiments in France during World War I. There is also a glass case containing a sample of the governor's official china, all of which was donated to the state. The lieutenant governor's office is also located in the west wing, just opposite the governor's office. On the north side of the second floor rotunda is the statue of George Washington astride a horse. This work was carved from a single piece of pine by Charles Ostner, a German immigrant. Ostner, working at night by candlelight from a postage stamp likeness, took four years to carve the figure. The statue was bronzed and presented to the Territory of Idaho in 1869. It stood on display on the capitol grounds until 1934, when due to weather damage, it was brought indoors and covered with gold leaf. To the rear of the George Washington statue is the attorney general's suite of offices. These offices were used by the Idaho supreme court justices until the new supreme court building was constructed in 1970. Many of the original lamp fixtures, some with very rare fire opal glass globes are visible in the main office. A fire broke out in the attorney general's office on January 1, 1992, causing approximately $3,400,000.00 in damage. In the east wing is the office of the secretary of state. In the reception area is the official copy of the Great Seal of the State of Idaho. The original is in safe keeping at the state historical museum. Portraits of previous secretaries of state are displayed in the office lobby.

Third Floor - The legislative chambers are located on the third floor, the senate in the west wing and the house of representatives in the east wing. Committee rooms and offices surround each chamber. Both chambers were remodeled in 1968. Also on this floor is the former Idaho Supreme Court room. All of the furnishings and decorations are symbolic of justice, law and mercy. Ten torch like lights mimic those in the U.S. Supreme Court chambers. This room is now used for hearings and committee meetings of the legislature's Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC). Fourth Floor - On the fourth floor are balcony entrances to the senate and house chambers. From these galleries the public can watch the legislature when it is in session. On the south side of the fourth floor rotunda is a large painting of Shoshone Falls on the Snake River near the city of Twin Falls. It is by artist J. C. Cowles . Three historic murals by Dana Boussard, one each for the three geographical regions of the State, hang in the northeast, northwest, and southwest corners of the fourth floor. The representation of North, Southwest, and Southeast Idaho will remind viewers of the state's diversity as well as its unity.

Basement - Sections of the basement have been remodeled to provide office space for legislative support staff. The Secretary of State's Uniform Commercial Code division utilizes the west end of the basement. Recent remodeling has added office space for the news media. Much of the space is still used for storage and building services.

Grounds - The grounds contain several notable trees, some of which were planted by U.S. Presidents. Among them are the Water Oak planted by President Benjamin Harrison on May 8, 1891, the Sugar Maple planted by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 28, 1903, and the Ohio Buckeye planted by President William Howard Taft on October 9, 1911. On the east lawn is an oak tree planted in memory of Governor C. Ben Ross and a maple tree planted in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. On the west lawn is an oak tree from the Tree of Gernika brought to Idaho in 1981 from the Basque Country in northern Spain, as a symbol of Basque freedom and independence. Just to the east of the ceremonial entrance is the Ruth G. Moon Rose Garden, in honor of the former state treasurer who served from 1945-46, 1955-59. There are two monuments on the grounds. On the east lawn is the Pioneer Monument erected by 2,777 school children of Boise on May 8, 1906 to perpetuate the memory of the Old Oregon Trail. On the west lawn is a monument erected by the ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) in August of 1935 in honor of the Grand Army of the Republic (the Union Army). On the west lawn near Jefferson street is an old "Model 1840" cast iron sea coast gun used by the confederacy in the Civil War. This was obtained by State Treasurer C.A. Hastings with the help of Senator Borah. Directly across Jefferson street from the main entrance is the Steunenberg Monument. The statue of Governor Frank Steunenberg, who was assassinated in 1905, was cast by Gilbert P. Riswold and dedicated in 1927. The monument, and the adjacent Frank Church Capitol Park to the east, are owned by Boise City. The city was granted the land by the state in exchange for the closure of Seventh street to allow for the enlargement of the capitol building site.

  • At the top of the dome is a five-foot, seven-inch-tall eagle.
  • Alaskan and Italian marble is used for the floors (grey and black).
  • Georgia marble is used for the trim (red).
  • Vermont marble is used on the interior walls (green).
  • The capitol complex buildings are heated by geothermal energy.

  • July, 2001: A $64,000,000.00 renovation project starts. It is the most expensive public works project in Idaho history.

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Rockie Ustick
Sunday, February 18th, 2007 @ 2:07pm
I think that there is too much of our history being demolished. Some things, buildings and places should be save so our children can learn about the past, as well.

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