Massachusetts State House: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a building. For the similarly-named legislative body, see Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Massachusetts Statehouse
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
The Massachusetts State House
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°21′27.75″N 71°3′48.83″W / 42.3577083°N 71.0635639°W / 42.3577083; -71.0635639Coordinates: 42°21′27.75″N 71°3′48.83″W / 42.3577083°N 71.0635639°W / 42.3577083; -71.0635639
Built/Founded: 1795-1798
Architect: Charles Bulfinch
Architectural style(s): Federal
Governing body: State
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: December 19, 1960[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000771
The Massachusetts State House c. 1862, in a stereograph image, before the addition of wings. The copper dome was first painted a warm gray to appear as stone, and was gilded in 1872.
Front view of the State House, illustrating its proximity to Beacon Street.
1827 drawing by Alexander Jackson Davis.

The Massachusetts State House, also called Massachusetts Statehouse or the "New" State House, is the state capitol and seat of government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is located at Boston in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The building houses the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) and the offices of the Governor of Massachusetts.



The building is situated on 6.7 acres (27,000 m²) of land on top of Beacon Hill in Boston. It was built on land once owned by John Hancock, Massachusetts's first elected governor.

Before the current State House was completed in 1798, Massachusetts's government sat in the Old State House on Court Street. In his design for the building, architect Charles Bulfinch was inspired by two London buildings: William Chambers's Somerset House,[3] and James Wyatt's Pantheon.[4]

A major expansion of the original building was done in 1898. The architect for the annex was Bostonian Charles Brigham.


The original wood dome, which leaked, was covered with copper in 1802 by Paul Revere's company. (Paul Revere was the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets in a commercially viable manner.)

The dome was first painted gray and then light yellow before being gilded with gold leaf in 1874. During WWII, the dome was once again painted, this time black or gray (depending on the source), to prevent reflections during blackouts and to protect the city and building from bombing attacks. In 1997, at a cost of more than $300,000, the dome was re-gilded, in 23k gold.

The dome is topped with a pine cone, symbolizing both the importance of Boston's lumber industry in the early colonial days and of the state of Maine, which was a district of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Bulfinch section of the building was completed.


In front of the building is an equestrian statue of General Joseph Hooker. Other statues in front of the building include Daniel Webster, educator Horace Mann, and former US President John F. Kennedy. The statues of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer are located on the lawns below the east and west wings.

Inside the building

The original red-brick Bulfinch building contains the Governor's offices (on the west end) with the Massachusetts Senate occupying the former House of Representatives Chamber under the dome. The Massachusetts House of Representatives occupies a chamber on the west side of the Brigham addition. Hanging over this chamber is the Sacred Cod, which was given to the House of Representatives in 1784 by a Boston merchant. The Sacred Cod symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry to the early Massachusetts economy.[5]

The second floor under the dome is decorated by murals painted by artist Edward Brodney.[6] Brodney won a competition to paint the first mural in a contest sponsored by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. It is entitled "Columbia Knighting Her World War Disabled." Brodney couldn't afford to pay models, and friends and family posed. The model for Columbia was Brodney's sister Norma Brodney Cohen, and the model for the soldier on one knee in the foreground was his brother Fred Brodney. In 1938, he painted a second mural under the dome called "World War Mothers." The models were again primarily friends and family members, with sister Norma sitting beside their mother Sarah Brodney [7]. The New York Times notes that the murals are relatively rare examples of military art with women as their subjects.

A staircase in front of the Bulfinch building leads from Beacon Street to Doric Hall inside the building. The large main doors inside Doric Hall are only opened on three occasions:

  1. When the President of the United States or foreign head of state visits.
  2. When the Governor exits the building on his last day in office. This tradition is known as the Long Walk and begins when the Governor, alone, exits the Executive Chamber, walks down to the 2nd floor, through Doric Hall and out the main doors. He then descends the staircase, crosses the street and enters Boston Common, symbolically rejoining the people of Massachusetts as a private citizen. The tradition has since been broken in recent years. Governor William Weld descended the staircase on his last day in office July 29, 1997, meeting his successor then-Lt.Governor A. Paul Cellucci on the stairs. Four years later, then-Governor Cellucci was deprived of his symbolic chance to descend the State House steps because of ongoing renovations to the front of the building. Acting Governor Jane Swift elected to walk down the stairs with her family before departing for the Berkshires. On January 4, 2007, Deval Patrick chose to be sworn in on the staircase and give his inaugural address there, forcing outgoing Governor Mitt Romney to take the Long Walk the day before his last in office.[8]
  3. When a regimental flag returns from battle.

In literature

One of Boston's most enduring nicknames, "The Hub of the Universe",[9] comes from a remark by Oliver Wendell Holmes from his 1858 book The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table in which he mentions the State House (emphasis added):

A jaunty-looking person... said there was one more wise man's saying that he had heard; it was about our place—but he didn't know who said it.... 'Boston State-House is the Hub of the Solar System. You couldn't pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar.'[10]

In film

In The Verdict, the State House interior is used as both a court house and hospital.

The producers of Amistad used several interior shots of the State House. One scene included the House of Representatives Chamber, which was briefly seen as a stand-in for the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber.

The State House is featured prominently in The Departed as a symbol of the antagonist, Colin Sullivan's, ambition.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15.  
  2. ^ "Massachusetts Statehouse". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-06.  
  3. ^ Shand-Tucci, Douglass. Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800-2000, p. 6. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1999. ISBN 1558492011.
  4. ^ Whiffen, Marcus, and Koeper, Frederick. American Architecture, 1607-1976. Routledge (1981), p. 110. ISBN 0710008139.
  5. ^ Massachusetts State House, via
  6. ^ "Edward Brodney, 92, Who Painted War Scenes". The New York Times. 08-19-2002. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  
  7. ^ "Boston Women's Heritage Trail". Retrieved 2009-11-26.  
  8. ^ "Patric Vows Inclusion in Inaugural Address". The Boston Globe. January 5, 2007.  
  9. ^ Boston's nicknames: Beantown, Hub, the Walking City -
  10. ^ Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1858). The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. Phillips, Sampson and Company.  ; Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1891) [1858]. The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. Houghton, Mifflin and Company.   p. 172

Further reading

  • Harold Kirker. Architecture of Charles Bulfinch. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969.

External links

Image gallery

Preceded by
Boston Common
Locations along Boston's Freedom Trail
Massachusetts State House
Succeeded by
Park Street Church


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address