Kentucky State Capitol

Kentucky State Capitol 700 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40504

Kentucky's Capitol is the fourth permanent building since statehood in 1792. It was built to replace the earlier 1830 capitol, still standing in downtown Frankfort, which had become inadequate to accommodate the growing state government. A long and bitter quarrel among Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort over which city should be Kentucky's Capital finally ended in 1904, when the legislature voted to spend one million dollars for a new capitol to replace the 1830 capitol on the old public square in downtown Frankfort. The architect's design was far too immense for the square, so the present site in south Frankfort was chosen instead. Ground was broken in 1904 and on June 2, 1910 Kentucky's New Capitol was dedicated with imposing ceremonies.

The architect was Frank Mills Andrews. A distinguished architect, he received the Silver Medal Award from the Royal Society of Arts in 1911 for a paper he presented on "American Architecture" at a meeting of the Society in London. A proponent of the Beaux-Arts style, he incorporated many striking architectural features and opulent decorative finishes in Kentucky's Capitol, illustrating his penchant for classical French interiors.

The elegance of the Capitol's interior was largely achieved by the generous use of white Georgia marble, gray Tennessee marble and dark green Italian marble. On axis with the rotunda, the grand corridors feature 36 imposing columns of Vermont granite and delicate art glass skylights.

The first floor contains the offices of the governor (and his staff), lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. It also features a rotunda with statues of famous Kentuckians and other exhibits, including Kentucky Women Remembered. Charles Henry Niehaus created two of the statues that make up the Rotunda Statuary, the statues of statesman, Henry Clay, and Ephraim McDowell, a frontier physician. These two statues are actually painted plaster models for the bronze cast statues that represent Kentucky in the United States Statuary Hall. The statue of Abraham Lincoln was the first one installed in the rotunda, donated in 1912 by J.B. Speed of Louisville. The statue of Jefferson Davis was carved of Tennessee marble and installed in 1933, and the bronze statue of Alben Barkely, 35th vice president of the United States, was installed in 1968.

The State Reception Room was designed as a place for ceremonial events. The walls are decorated with pilasters finished in scagliola and murals, hand painted to resemble tapestries from the Gobelin Tapestry Guild. Original to the room, the hand carved walnut furniture was crafted to resemble 17th century French Baroque pieces.

The second floor contains the courtroom of the state Supreme Court, as well as the chambers of the justices. The room is noted for its solid Honduras mahogany paneling and the elegant coffered ceiling covered in Old Dutch Metal leafing, hammered to imitate old bronze. The state law library is nearby.

The chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate face each other on opposite ends of the third floor. Both chambers continue the classical motifs of the building, incorporating scagliola (faux marble) for their decorative architectural features. Some high-level legislative offices (such as for the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate) are also located there.

The Capitol also has a partial fourth floor which houses the galleries of the House and Senate, as well as a few offices for legislative committee staffers.

Decorative lunettes above each staircase highlight the entrances to the House and Senate chambers. Painted in oils by T. Gilbert White, both depict frontier scenes with Daniel Boone. The east mural portrays Boone and his party catching their first glimpse of the Bluegrass region atop Pilot Knob in 1769. The west mural depicts the negotiations for the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, which lead to the purchase of Cherokee land that would eventually become Kentucky.

When the Capitol was constructed, space for murals was provided in the pendentives, the reverse triangular spaces right below the dome, but the murals were not completed until 2010 -- 100 years later. The four pendentive murals inside the dome reflect the range of diversity, professions, landmarks, architecture and culture that comprises the rich social fabric of Kentucky’s past and present, as well as the unique landscapes of Commonwealth’s distinctive regions.

In addition, there is a partially buried basement level with mostly offices for clerks and maintenance personnel. It also contains a small gift shop and lunch counte, as well as an underground tunnel to the nearby capitol annex.

The exterior of the Capitol is faced in Indiana limestone and Vermont granite. The richly sculptured pediment of the classical front portico was designed by Charles Henry Niehaus and carved by Australian sculptor Peter Rossack. Allegorical figures represent Kentucky, the central female figure, with Progress, History, Plenty, Law, Art and Labor as her attendants.

he building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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