The Texas State Capitol is massive, commanding and dignified. Modeled after the nation's Capitol in Washington D.C., it stands a bit taller … a detail Texans are quite proud to point out.
Texas State Capitol
Although now dwarfed by taller structures, the Texas State Capitol still packs a visual punch to the Austin skyline. Touring this Austin treasure was fun and educational. Dedicated in 1888, it captures the states rich frontier history. However, what impressed us most were the beautiful and massive capitol grounds. Surrounded by city streets, the grounds are a lush green sanctuary in the heart of downtown Austin. We joined the multitude of office workers and schoolchildren in enjoying the park like setting with its immaculate lawns, sculptures and old shade trees.
(Note: You can click on most photos on this page and the next for a larger view.)
Surrounding the Capitol Grounds is a decorative iron fence with each black picket topped with a gleaming gold Lone Star … originally gold leaf, the stars are simply gold paint today. Back in the late 1800’s the fence served not only to define the grounds in an elegant fashion, but also served to keep wandering livestock off the Capitol Square.
There are numerous monuments throughout the grounds. The Heroes of the Alamo Monument was installed in 1891 and is the oldest. It features the names of the Texans who lost their lives, defending the fort.
Right in front of the Capitol is the monument to Terry's Texas Rangers. Erected in 1907 by surviving comrades, it commemorates the 8th Texas Calvary. Danny was captivated by this view from a window in the House of Representatives Chamber. The monument in the background, erected in 1896, is the oldest and honors Volunteer Firemen.
The many Confederate memorials and plaques that abound in and around the Capitol is a source of controversy. Some folks think they represent an act of treason and should be removed and placed in a museum. Two especially offensive plaques were successfully removed from the Texas Supreme Court Building … one plaque under the Great Seal of the Confederacy dedicated the building as a memorial to those "Texans who had served in the Confederacy." The other plaque bore a Confederate Battle flag and had a quote by General Robert E Lee. As far as we know their removal is still being contested in court.
When we entered the Capitol we were immediately struck by its hushed dignity. Each component down even to the door hinges is an example of the fine craftsmanship of a bygone era. Emblazoned with the words "Texas Capitol", these Texas sized brass hinges were custom designed and weigh seven pounds apiece.
Immediately upon entering the capitol foyer one is greeted by two late nineteenth century, monumental paintings by Texas artist William Huddle. Danny loved the portrait of Davy Crockett, martyr of the Alamo, holding his famous coonskin cap.
This painting depicts a watershed event in Texas history … the surrender of Santa Anna after the battle of San Jacinto. Click here for a detail view.
Flanking the entrance to the rotunda are two life size marble statues carved by German born sculptor Elizabet Ney. Stephen F. Austin, founder of the first American colony in Texas, is known as the "Father of Texas" … a moniker given to him by Sam Houston in his eulogy.
Sam Houston was truly a remarkable man and is our favorite Texas “hero”. He had great respect for the Native Americans and often wore an Indian blanket slung over his shoulder as depicted by Elizabet Ney in this statue.
Looking up from the center of the four story rotunda one sees an 8 foot bronze Texas Lone Star and the two foot letters T E X A S on the ceiling. Of course from this vantage point they look about three inches tall. A bit of trivia …the state's Lone Star symbol appears 8,000 times around the capital from doorknobs to the iron fences ... but we didn't try to count them all. Click on the star for a larger view.
On the center of the rotundas floor is a terrazzo mosaic that depicts the seals of the six nations whose flags have flown over Texas: France, Spain, Mexico, The United States, the Confederate States of America and, of course, the Republic of Texas.
Portraits of the four presidents of the Republic of Texas and past governors of the State are displayed in historic order on the walls of the four levels of the rotunda. This means that each time a new governor is elected; every portrait in the rotunda must be moved back one space. George W. Bush was the most recent portrait … it was amazing how many people stopped to get their picture snapped with this bozo.
You can see a panorama photo of the rotunda in our Panorama Gallery.
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