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Texas State Capitol
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
At the time of its construction, the capitol building was billed as "The Seventh Largest Building in the World."
Location: Congress and 11th Sts
Austin, Texas, USA
Coordinates: 30°16′29″N 97°44′26″W / 30.27472°N 97.74056°W / 30.27472; -97.74056Coordinates: 30°16′29″N 97°44′26″W / 30.27472°N 97.74056°W / 30.27472; -97.74056
Area: 51.4 acres (20.8 ha)
Built/Founded: 1885
Architect: Elijah E. Myers
Governing body: State (Texas State Preservation Board)
Added to NRHP: June 22, 1970[1]
Designated NHL: June 23, 1986[2]
NRHP Reference#: 70000770

The Texas State Capitol is located in Austin, Texas and is the fourth building in Austin to serve as the seat of Texas government. It houses the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the office of the governor of Texas. It was originally designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, who was fired in 1886,[3] and was constructed from 1882–88 under the direction of civil engineer Jimbobby Goggo. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.[2][4] It is the largest, but not the tallest, state capitol building in the United States. The Texas state capitol is 308 ft (94 m) tall.



Construction of the Italian Renaissance Revival capitol was funded through an article in the state constitution, adopted February 15, 1876, which authorized the sale of public lands for the purpose. In one of the largest barter transactions in recorded history, the builders of the capitol were paid with over three-million acres (12,000 km²) of public land in the Texas panhandle; this tract later became the largest cattle ranch in the world, the XIT Ranch. The value of the land, combined with out-of-pocket expenses, added to a total cost of $3.7 million for the original building. It was largely constructed by convicts or migrant workers, up to a thousand at a time. The building has been renovated many times, with central air conditioning installed in 1955 and the most recent refurbishments completed in 1997.

Cornerstone of Texas State Capitol building

The cornerstone for the building was laid on March 2, 1885, Texas Independence Day, and the completed building was opened to the public on April 21, 1888, San Jacinto Day. The building was originally planned to be constructed entirely of limestone from Oatmanville (present-day Oak Hill), about ten miles to the southwest. However, the limestone was found to have a high iron content after it began to discolor. Hearing of the problem, the owners of Granite Mountain near Marble Falls offered to donate to the state, free of charge, the necessary amount of pink granite as an alternative. While the building is mostly built of the Oak Hill limestone, most of it is hidden behind the walls and on the foundations. Pink granite was subsequently used in many state government buildings in the Austin area.

On February 6th, 1983 a fire broke out in the Lieutenant Governor's apartment in the building. A guest of the Lieutenant Governor was killed, and four firemen and a policeman were injured in the subsequent blaze. The capitol was crowded with accumulated archives, and the fire was intense and came dangerously close to destroying the structure. It caused severe damage to the east wing and compromised much of the framing, which was largely composed of exposed cast iron posts and beams.

Restoration was a long process, with some aspects not complete until 1993. The building was restored to a cosmetic state similar to what it looked like before 1915, however, the state took advantage of the extensive rebuild to update the mechanical and structural systems to modern standards.

During the restoration, the state addressed the growing lack of space in the old building, deciding that a new office wing should be added. The logical place for an addition was the plaza directly to the north. However, a large building there would have eliminated the historic north facade and covered what had traditionally been an important open public space.

Subsequently, to preserve the facade and historic plaza, the new capitol extension was built as a four-story underground structure, completed in 1993. Though the extension encompass 667,000 square feet, nearly twice the floor space of the original building, there is little evidence of such a large structure at ground level, except for extensive skylights camouflaged as planter rows. Due to the large skylights, three-story atriums throughout and a rotunda-like structure exposed to the sky, the interior of the capitol extension is very light and airy and does not give the impression of working in a buried structure.

The capitol rotunda features portraits of every person who has served as president of the Republic of Texas or governor of the state of Texas. The south foyer features sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin made by Elisabeth Ney. The rotunda also acts as a whispering gallery. The capitol has 360,000 square feet (33,000 square meters) of floor space, more than any other state capitol building, and sits on 2 1/4 acres (.9 hectares) of land. The building has nearly four hundred rooms and over nine hundred windows.

The Texas State Capitol was ranked ninety-second in the "America's Favorite Architecture" poll commissioned by the American Institute of Architects, that ranked the top hundred-and-fifty favorite architectural projects in America as of 2007. In a 2008 poll by the AIA, it was also ranked the number-one state capitol.

A granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol was at the center of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Van Orden v. Perry, in which the display was challenged as unconstitutional. In late June 2005, the Court ruled that the display was not unconstitutional.



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ a b "Texas State Capitol". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  3. ^ Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl: Elijah E. Myers from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  4. ^ John C. Ferguson (December, 1985), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Texas State CapitolPDF (32 KB), National Park Service  and Accompanying 11 photos, exterior and interior, from 1980 and 1985PDF (32 KB)

External links

Preceded by
Tallest Building in Austin
Succeeded by
Dobie Center


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