Oh Give Me a Dome ... or Two, or Five

By Page, David | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 26, 2000 | Go to article overview

Oh Give Me a Dome ... or Two, or Five


Page, David, THE JOURNAL RECORD


States across the country take pride in their state capitols -- whether they have a dome or not.

Oklahoma has plans to move from the list of eight states without caps on their capitols to join the dome group. Gov. Frank Keating announced Tuesday that money has been raised to place a dome on the Oklahoma State Capitol.

All of the states bordering Oklahoma except New Mexico have domes on their capitols.

It's somewhat odd that New Mexico does not have a dome on its present capitol, which was dedicated in 1966. For a short period, New Mexico had a capitol with two domes.

In 1886, a new territorial capitol was built along the Santa Fe River with two domes. It replaced the oldest of New Mexico's capitols -- the Palace of the Governors built in 1610 by Don Pedro Peralta.

The adobe brick Palace of Governors was the first major structure in the new city of La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi and is still a familiar site to visitors in downtown Santa Fe.

But it did not have a dome and the two-dome capitol was built.

"The double-domed structure rose from the high desert in mosque- like fashion, constructed of yellow sandstone with brick interior walls," according to the State of New Mexico.

But the two-doom fad had a short life. In 1898, just six years after it was dedicated, the territorial capitol was the victim of a mysterious fire. When firefighters put ladders up to the domes, they found their hoses had been slashed, apparently with a knife, according to New Mexico state history.

"In spite of the devastating fire, however, the capitol had been of such solid construction that the walls had to be torn down with dynamite," according to newspaper reports at the time.

The current New Mexico State Capitol -- the Roundhouse -- was dedicated in December 1966. At the dedication, Santa Fe claimed a double distinction -- the city had both the oldest and the newest state capitol building in the country, the Palace of the Governors and the Roundhouse.

But like Oklahoma and the cost of its proposed dome, New Mexico had a lesson in inflation.

The cost of construction, minus furniture and accessories, was $4.68 million for the Roundhouse. A renovation in 1992, 26 years after it was dedicated, cost $24.98 million, excluding furniture.

Like New Mexico's oldest-newest proclamation, other states also like to boast about their capitols.

Louisiana claims to have the tallest capitol building in the country, standing 450 feet, even without a dome.

As expected, Louisiana has some colorful stories to go with its state capitol in Baton Rouge.

Some historical reports say that New Orleans was originally designated as the capitol city, but it offered too many temptations for the legislators. So, Baton Rouge was selected.

In 1850, the Louisiana Legislature started meeting in what is now known as the Old State Capitol. It served as the seat of government until the "new" capitol was dedicated in 1932, with the old capitol barely escaping demolition.

Gov. Huey Long is said to have had little use for old buildings, especially the Old State Capitol. He had bad memories of impeachment proceedings brought against him there in 1929, according to a report in The Advocate. He wanted to tear down the old Gothic castle and build a modern skyscraper capitol, something he thought a progressive state like Louisiana deserved.

He got his new capitol but the old building was saved when two women -- Mrs. …

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