Most-beautiful-state-capitols lists usually include Wisconsin’s. It’s lavish, traditional, and one of the few capitols that Ruth & I have toured twice. The first time was in summer, and I vividly remember going outside on a deck to admire the fine view of Madison below. Ruth & I lived in The Midwest at the time and considered Madison a favored destination. We almost moved there. It’s still hard to find a capitol city in the United States with so much to see and so many things to do. Our 2nd tour occurred in early March, not an especially good time to visit a state so far north. “Most beautiful” certainly describes the room where the tour began, the Governor’s Conference Room below. It was modeled on the Hall of the College in the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
Probably because I had seen it before, I tended to focus on the odd bits of information I was learning about this capitol. It only took 20 years to render the first Madison capitol structure inadequate. The 2nd capitol building took 11 years to build and occupy.
The Wisconsin State Capitol’s dome is topped with a gilded bronze statue of a woman symbolizing Wisconsin and illustrating its motto “Forward” with her body language. She stands atop the only granite dome on a U. S. state capitol. She was created by Daniel Chester French, the noted U. S. sculptor who made the Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. He lost money on the Lincoln project. Wisconsin weighs 3 tons and wasn’t installed until 1914. Since the dome was completed in 1869, it must have been fun to watch that lift occur.
There are also many badgers in this building. A badger is a native weasel. Cornwall miners came to Wisconsin to work in its lead mines and reported seeing so many of them that this became The Badger State. There are also many dairy images throughout. For example, there’s a lactometer, an instrument for measuring the density of milk, in the Supreme Court.
All State Capitols have copies of The Liberty Bell. I don’t know how I missed that bit of trivia over the years, but I did.
There’s marble throughout this building. The rarest is Escalette. Don’t plan to use it while remodeling your bathroom. It’s from France and is no longer available. Being brown, it’s not especially beautiful. The designers, however, liked it well enough to use it in the large columns in the Senate Chamber. Also in the Senate Chamber is the longest-serving state legislator in American political history. Fred Risser is 89 and deservedly has a front row seat.
Angry state employees took over this state capitol 5 years ago. This made the national news. The last thing our tour guide told us was that they were respectful of the building and did no real damage. This is probably true. The first estimate of the cleanup was 7½ million dollars. That rapidly dropped to under $300,000.