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Wisconsin Capital Tour
Rising between the picturesque waters of Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, the majestic granite structure of Wisconsin's Capitol building glows like a beacon, accenting the Madison skyline.
On October 25,1836, the first Wisconsin Legislature convened in a rented building located in old Belmont (now Leslie, Lafayette County). A long struggle ensued regarding a permanent location for state government. Eventually, Madison was chosen to be the site. Built in 1838, the first Madison Capitol stood for 25 years until it was replaced by a larger building in 1863. After a devastating fire left the second Madison Capitol badly damaged, George B. Post & Sons designed the current Capitol, which was built between 1906 and 1917 at a cost of $7.25 million. The Madison Capitol is distinguished as being the only State Capitol ever built on an isthmus.
Reaching to a height of over 200 feet, the Capitol dome is topped by Daniel Chester French's elegant gilded bronze statue, "Wisconsin." Edwin Blashfield's mural "Resources of Wisconsin" lavishly decorates the ceiling of the rotunda, which is the only granite dome in the United States. Inside, visitors are treated to the unique textures of 43 varieties of stone from around the world, hand-carved furniture and exquisite glass mosaics.
The state's diverse ethnic heritage is reflected in the architecture, art and furnishings throughout the Capitol. Styled after the council chambers of the Doge's Palace in Venice, the walls and ceilings of the Governor's conference room are adorned with 26 historical and allegorical paintings by Hugo Ballin. The room also boasts French walnut furniture and a Wisconsin hardwood floor.
The heritage theme is echoed in the chambers of Wisconsin's highest court and its bicameral legislature. The State Supreme Court room is decorated in German and Italian styles and features extensive use of marble, as well as four murals by Albert Herter. The Senate Chamber is decorated with French and Italian marble, and is highlighted by a colorful skylight and a Kenyon Cox mural depicting the opening of the Panama Canal. Down the hall, the Assembly Chamber features New York and Italian marble, Wisconsin oak furniture, a thirty-foot skylight and an Edwin Blashfield mural symbolizing Wisconsin's past, present and future.
The best way to experience the beauty and grandeur of Wisconsin's Capitol building (located at 2 East Main Street, Madison, WI 53702) is to see it for yourself. It is open to the public weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Free tours are offered daily, year round except on the following holidays: New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. Tours start at the information desk Monday through Saturday at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 a.m. and 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 p.m. A 4:00 p.m. tour is offered weekdays (Monday - Friday), excluding holidays, during Memorial Day through Labor Day. The sixth floor museum and observation deck are open during the summer months. Groups of ten or more can make an on-line reservation for a tour of the State Capitol or call (608)266-0382.
Wondering where to park in downtown Madison? Here's the latest information on Madison's parking ramps and lots. If coming by bus, passengers may be dropped off from the right-hand bus lane of the Capitol Square. Parking for buses is available at Olin Turville Park. Directions from the Capitol to Olin Turville Park are as follows: Turn right onto East Washington Avenue, then turn right on Blair Street which leads into John Nolen Drive. Follow John Nolen Drive around the lake and make a left turn on Olin Turville Court.
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