One of the reasons I love Jefferson City is because we are home to the beautiful state capitol building. As the leading attraction in the city, the capitol draws thousands of visitors every year, from tourists to school groups.
The present state capitol, which was completed in 1917, is the third capitol in Jefferson City and the sixth in Missouri’s state history. Our current capitol is undergoing much-needed renovations, which are expected to be completed by late 2020.
When Missouri first became a state in 1821, the capitol was located in St. Louis in the Mansion House. The capitol was quickly relocated to St. Charles shortly after and remained there until 1826. It was then decided that the capitol should be moved to the center of the state, specifically located off the Missouri River.
Jefferson City was quickly chosen and construction began on the new capitol. Two years later the construction was complete. Located where the present-day Governor’s Mansion stands, the building was made out of brick and cost about $18,500.
However, the building was quickly destroyed in a fire in 1837, but a new, bigger capitol was already in construction nearby in its present-day location. The second capitol building was built to accommodate a larger government, but also burned down in a fire after the building was struck by lightning on February 5, 1911.
Luckily, many important government and state documents were saved due to the heroic efforts of volunteers, prisoners and state officials.
A few months later, a special election was held in order to decide to use state bonds to pay for a new capitol. The citizens of Missouri approved the issuing of 3.5 million dollars to pay for a new capitol building and construction on the new building started promptly thereafter.
A design competition was held to decide who would design the new building, which resulted in New York designers Egerton Swartwout and Evarts Tracy being declared the winners. The designers constructed the new capitol in the traditional Greco-Roman style.
Construction was completed in 1917. Historical references to the nation’s Capital in Washington D.C. were included in the design. The building itself was built with marble brought in from Carthage, Missouri. This marble has worn down significantly over the years, which led to the need for current renovations. These renovations include restoration of the marble, foundations, and the statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture.
All four floors of the capitol building are open to the public. On the ground floor, there is a Missouri State Museum that showcases multiple exhibits. Another popular exhibit is Thomas Hart Benton’s mural in the House Lounge.
In 1935, the Missouri House of Representatives commissioned Benton to paint a mural on the four walls of the Lounge, a large meeting room located on the third-floor west wing. The mural first sparked major controversy among the legislators because of its bold and vivid scenes of everyday life in Missouri, which included slavery.
Guided tours of the Capitol are given daily, Monday-Friday every hour (except at noon), and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Self-guided maps are also available.