Town Hall

Town Hall

Friday, March 28, 2014

State Capitol Building

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh
There is so much to see in the Kansas Capitol, we were eager to see what the Capitol looked like after the 13 year and the $325 million renovation. We called (785-296-3966) ahead and were told the particulars of visiting on Saturday's. Only self guided tours, only between 8 am and 1 pm and plenty of handicapped parking in the underground garage, where parking is free. Unfortunately, when arrived on the Saturday morning we went, we found the parking garage closed. On closer examination of the sign that was posted near the entrance, we found that hours posted did not jive with what the visitors center had told us a couple days previously. The capitol police seemingly don't understand ADA issues and how difficult dropping off and leaving a handicapped individual (whether they be child or adult) and leaving them unattended for five minutes while you go park the car across the street.

John Brown Mural
painted by John Curry.
Photo by Kevin Surbaugh
Still the best free attraction in Topeka, is the Kansas State Capital building. Despite the lack of foresight towards those with disabilities we enjoyed our visit to the peoples house.

A must see of any visit to the State Capitol is the murals by John Stuart Curry on the second floor. Curry's most famous works were these murals. In June 1937, newspaper editors in Kansas sought donations and raised the money to commission Curry (who was the most famous artist in Kansas at the time) to paint several murals in the statehouse. Curry's design was divided into three themes: first the Settlement of Kansas, which depicted the Conquistadors and the Plainsmen; second the Life of a Homesteader, which would depict John Brown (the most famous and depicted here); and third, Pastoral Prosperity which would include scenes of modern Kansas. Curry wanted to be free to express his own ideas regarding the murals: "I have my own ideas about telling the story of pioneers coming into Kansas. I want to paint this war with nature and I want to paint the things I feel as a native Kansan." Political controversy stalled the completion of the murals, which weren't finished until 1942. The murals however were left unsigned at his death in 1946. Also near these murals on this floor is the Governors office, which is part of the executive branch of the state government.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh
photo by Kevin Surbaugh


Photos by Kevin Surbaugh
Visitor Hours:
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday
Closed Sunday and state holidays
Historic and dome tours
are offered Monday through Friday.
Visit kansascapitol.org for tour times.
Parking Garage is closed to
visitors on weekends
and after 5:30 M-F
On the third floor is the legislative and the judicial branch. Well sort of. The Judicial branch was moved out to another building across tenth street in 1978. You can see the "Old Supreme Court Room," in the picture to the left. The justices met in this chamber in North wing until 1978 when the new Kansas Judicial Center was completed. Today the room is mainly used for committee meetings. Also on the third floor is the two houses of the state legislature. The House of Representatives (or lower house) meets in the west wing of the capitol. Work on the west wing, which is wider and longer than the east wing, began in 1879 and enclosed by 1880. Limestone from Cottonwood Falls was used for the west wing. The wing was still under construction when the Kansas House of Representatives convened in 1881. The House Chamber (as pictured above right) was restored during the summer of 1998 when the murals on the ceiling and the names on the wall were found and restored. The ceiling lights in this chamber were installed for the 2008 session and are replicas of the original gas lights. They are lowered on chains from the attic to change bulbs. The eternal lights on the Speaker's podium are kept burning at all times. The Kansas House consists of 125 Representatives, the members of which are elected every two years. 
In the east wing is the State Senate Chambers (or Upper House). During the recent renovations in the Senate Chamber (picture above left), the historic cast-iron columns and pilasters were restored by developing something called "in situ electroplating technique" to clean the copper and silver plating, then lacquered and hand polished to their original brilliant sheen. At the base of the podiums are the original coal burning stoves used to heat the chamber in the early days of the capitol.The Senate is made up of 40 Senators elected every four years. Between these podiums and the marble throughout the chamber, this is the most beautiful of the two houses (in my humble opinion).
The fourth floor is mostly committee rooms and the observation balconies which is where the wife and I were when we took these pictures of both chambers. From every floor you can see the inner view of the dome, although the most dramatic views, like this one is from the first
Inner View of the Dome
photo by Kevin Surbaugh
three floors which actually have a rotunda. It is especially beautiful with the newly polished copper. Which incidentally the copper that makes up the inner and outer dome would make 2,350,746 pennies.
Another gem and great site to see in the Capitol is the State Library which even has a glass floor on the upper walkway. However it is among the areas closed to the public on Saturday/s, so we were unable to visit or photograph it on this visit. However, I expect that we visit this building again some time in the future. 
Of course who can pass up mentioning the beautiful architecture. Especially that makes up the beautiful molding on the fifth floor.

molding on 5th floor
photo by Kevin Surbaugh
Also any visit, one must look around the expansive visitors center and see all that is on display there.  That is one thing that both my wife and I wish we would of had more time to explore.  Diffidently our next visit will include more time for this, the newest area of the People's House.







A piece of the original dome on display
in the visitors center.
Photo by Kevin Surbaugh




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