Designed by Joseph Miller Huston in a Beaux-Arts style, the Pennsylvania State Capitol was dedicated in 1906. It is the third capitol built in Harrisburg and is home to the state’s House of Representatives, Senate, Supreme and Superior Courts, and offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The four-story, 475-room building features a large, central rotunda and large east and west wings. Thirty-minute guided tours are offered Monday through Friday from 8:30-4:00. The capitol was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. The grounds and associated buildings that make up the Capitol Complex also achieved NHL status in 2013.
capital of Pennsylvania moved to Harrisburg, from Lancaster, in 1812, the
legislature met in the old Dauphin County Courthouse until the first capitol
(known as the Hills Capitol after its architect, Stephen Hills) was completed
in 1822. Unfortunately, it was destroyed
by fire in 1897. The state government
then met in a local Methodist church until Pennsylvania’s second capitol, the
Cobb Capitol, was partially completed in 1898.
This capitol went unfinished due to a lack of funds to create the ornate
structure designed by Henry Ives Cobb.
However, its existence prevented the state capital from moving back to
its original home, Philadelphia.
In 1901, Governor
William Stone created a Capitol Commission to explore the feasibility of
designing and building a new home for the state government. A design contest was established, which was
won by Joseph Miller Huston, and funds were secured for the new capitol. However, its construction was mired in
scandal and thirteen officials, including Huston, were convicted of various
crimes associated with fraud.
Regardless, the new capitol was dedicated in 1906 by Governor Samuel
Pennypacker with President Teddy Roosevelt in attendance.
Huston’s crimes, he designed a magnificent building made from Vermont granite
and centered around a rotunda capped by a 94-foot diameter dome inspired by St.
Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Standing atop
the dome is a 14-foot tall bronze statue of “Commonwealth,” designed by Roland
Hinton Perry. The large bronze doors
that open to the rotunda were designed by Huston and display scenes from the
history of the state. The entrance
sculptures, “Love and Labor” and “Burden of Life” by George Grey Barnard, were
added in 1911. A grand imperial staircase
within the rotunda leads to a mezzanine between the second and third floors and
four lunette (half-moon) murals by Edwin Austin Abbey grace its walls. Finally, 16,000-square feet of the rotunda
are covered in tiles hand-crafted by Henry Chapman Mercer which comprise 377
mosaics that represent 254 scenes.
chamber is decorated with an Italian Renaissance theme and includes
stained-glass windows by William Van Ingen and additional murals by Abbey. The interior of the Senate chamber was
completed with a French Renaissance style and features murals by Violet Oakley
and additional Ingen stained-glass windows.
As for the court chamber, it features Greek and Roman themes with murals
by Oakley that depict the history of law and it is capped by a stained-glass