In the fourth episode of “Discover Austin” we visit the Texas Capitol. I recommend taking a tour but if you’re limited on time, just wander the grounds. It really is picturesque, situated between downtown and the UT campus. New episodes are available each week. Over the course of the series, we’ll cover everything from landmarks and events to restaurants and icons. If you’d prefer to read about the Capitol Building, the video transcript is below the video.
Greetings, I’m Craig Smyser. I’m in downtown Austin at the Texas Capitol building for this episode of “Discover Austin.”
In 1881, eight architects submitted eleven designs for a national competition in hopes of their design being chosen to be the new Texas Capitol building. Elijah E. Myers, architect of the Michigan and Colorado Capitol buildings, was selected as the winner. The construction of the Capitol was paid for in an unusual way, explained by Capitol Tour Guide, Jenna.
“I think one of the most interesting facts about the historic Capitol is this building was built with no money. Texas was short on funds at that time so they traded three million acres of land in the Texas panhandle to a Chicago corporation called the Capitol Syndicate.
Legislative sessions occur for 140 days on every odd numbered year beginning on the second Tuesday in January. During session, 31 Senators meet in the Senate Chamber. Located in the front of the room is the original Lieutenant Governor’s walnut desk, while anchoring the west side do the room are two large paintings by noted early Texas artist, Henry Arthur McArdle.
The Senate works directly with the House of Representatives during the legislative sessions to enact Texas state laws. The House chamber is the largest room in the building and seats 150 members.
The exterior of the Capitol was to be native limestone, but the local rock contained iron which caused discoloration when exposed to air. The solution was “sunset red” granite, donated by landowners near present day Marble Falls, TX. Situated at the top of the dome, “is the Goddess of Liberty.” She measures 16 feet tall and the inspiration for her design was a little more familiar than you may think. “A possible inspiration was the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Statue that’s atop the United States Capitol, and also the Athena Statue in ancient Greece.”
When construction was completed in 1888, the Texas Capitol Building measured 310 feet in height. Taller than even the National Capitol Building. It is the largest state Capitol in gross square feet. A fun fact, there is just one location on the grounds where you can see the lowest and highest points of the building at the same time. However, don’t worry about losing sight of the dome, because many views from around the area are protected by state law from being obstructed. You can find more information on the Capitol grounds and public tour information as well as historic photos on the State Preservation Board website. Thanks for joining me for this episode of “Discover Austin.”