If you plan to tour Wyoming’s state capitol building, you’d better hurry. It closes on November 1, 2015, for extensive renovations and will not open again until some time in 2018. The house and senate chambers were completed in 1917, so this is a 100-year-redo. When Ruth and I were there in August, men were already hauling out furniture. We overheard a discussion about what to do with a large painting that was yet to be taken down.
The Equal Rights State’s sandstone capitol building is very traditional. In fact, its Western Renaissance style reminds a lot of people of the National Capitol in Washington, DC. Inside, its pretty typical too with lots of grand wooden staircases, marble galore, an impressive rotunda, etc. So what makes it different and worth visiting? Details. In one of the staircases a single spindle is upside down. This was done intentionally to alert those who notice it that humans make mistakes and only God is perfect. A few of the marble floor tiles have fossils imbedded in them. In one formal black and white portrait of the members of the House of Representatives, one man sports a red tie. His friends colored it in.
Governing members have lots of free time and are used to female participation. Legislators meet only in odd-numbered years for 40 day sessions. Among the governors’ portraits is Nellie Tayloe Ross. Missourian-by-birth Nellie was our nation’s first female governor back in 1925. She served in that role for 2 years after her husband, William B. Ross, died in office. The Democratic Party nominated Nellie to complete his term, and she ran for re-election but lost. However, indomitable Nellie leaned forward. When Franklin Roosevelt was President, he appointed her director of the U.S. Mint, and she held that post until 1953. She lived to be 101. The House had 2 women speakers in the 1960s and they both came from the same county. April Kunz was the 1st woman President of the Senate.
The men could be combative. In 1915, one unhappy legislator grabbed a print off a wall and hit another man in the head with it. It tore when the surprised victim raised his hand to ward off the blow. There’s still an empty space on the wall where the print hung. Tensions continued to the point that the Republicans and Democrats that year insisted on separate photographs to be hung in the capitol.
Wyoming is different from other states in many ways. It has a State Dinosaur: Triceratops. Most states promote their highest points. Wyoming wants you to know that 3,100 feet is its lowest elevation. July’s Cheyenne Frontier Days includes the world’s largest outdoor rodeo so, predictably, the state sport is…rodeo.