Discover Minnesota: The State Capitol

5:08 PM, Jul 8, 2010   |    comments
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ST. PAUL -- Each year, thousands of people visit Minnesota's State Capitol, with a free, behind the scenes tour of the iconic landmark.

The building's story starts way above ground level, near the top of the historic dome.

"The Quadriga is the first sculpture in the Minnesota State Capitol," said Brian Pease, of the Minnesota Historical Society. "It's on the front of the building near the main entrance."

The 4,000 pound statue was placed in 1906 when the building first opened.

"This is a one of a kind work of art, only found on the Minnesota State Capitol," Pease said. "The name of the statue is the Progress of the State, we have four horses, which represent the elements of nature. Earth, wind, fire, water."

The statues are made from copper, steel and layered with 23.5 carat gold. It endured water damage over the years, but was restored in 1994.

If looking up doesn't give someone a neck cramp, the rotunda will. The dome is only one of three inner domes.

"If you stand on the first floor of the rotunda, it's 142 ft., above you that you see the inner dome," Pease said. "It really is awe-inspiring just because of the size and beautiful decoration all around it."

The main focus of the Historical Society over the years is keeping the Capitol's authenticity alive.

"There's a great sense of pride in taking this extra effort to make the building look as it would in 1905," Pease said.

The House and Senate were restored in 1988, as well as the cafeteria in 2000.

"You'll see that during the restoration process, some of the original paintings were left as is," Pease said. 

What could be most surprising is that the Capitol serves as a Civil War Memorial.

"This room became a designated place to tell the story of the State's history," Pease said. 

The Governor's reception room is a look back through historic art.

"It's really one of the show off places in the State Capitol."

"When Cass Gilbert was designing this space, he decided to put up paintings and murals of the Minnesota men," Pease said.

It's in honor of the First Minnesota Infantry Regiment. Eight-two percent lost their lives at Gettysburg. 

"There was a strong reputation and a strong sense of pride and honor these men had coming back to Minnesota."

RELATED:  Other attractions in the area

Minutes from the State Capitol, Saint Paul has entertainment for every age - budding scientists experiment at the Science Museum of Minnesota;  kids explore at the Children's Museum .  The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts  stage is home to plays, the Minnesota Opera, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Schubert  Club. Click here  for Saint Paul visitor's information




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