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Capitol Corridors: The Ohio Statehouse

In my first ever drive through downtown Columbus back in 2007, one of the more eye-catching features I noticed was the Ohio Statehouse, or more specifically, the flattop dome on top of the building. I figured that, similar to Ohio's uniquely shaped state flag (a burgee, for those who did not know,) there would be a story behind it.

The Ohio Statehouse is probably a place people see or pass by thousands of times, but generally only visit on very select occasions. As a young student in Ohio, you may have made a field trip or two over to visit this seat of state government. Anyone interested in a particular state bill or political issue may have dropped by here to hear the chambers in session. And in our case, as a person hosting visitors from out-of-state (like my parents), you might pay a visit to it as a tourist attraction.

Visitors to the Statehouse have the option of two different self-guided tours (via cell phone or podcast; just bring the appropriate device) at their own pace, or a free guided tour of approximately 45-50 minutes. These tours are offered on weekdays tours offered on the hour from 10 AM - 3 PM when the Statehouse is open to the public. There's even an option for those who cannot make the trip out to the grounds in person via a virtual tour, which is available via a visit to the Statehouse's website. After-hours tours of the Statehouse can also be arranged in advanced for a fee.

We opted for the regular daily guided tour and we found out it's just not possible to cover all 10 acres of the Statehouse building grounds and cover every little nook and cranny. However, we did get a good sampling of both the highlights and lesser-known aspects of this building, such as its modern (for the time) heating system and its use of windows to maximize the use of sunlight for natural illumination. In addition, as a California resident for so long, I found it interesting that the road to determining Ohio's eventual capital city was pretty similar to California's path in terms of various cities holding that distinction before a final decision was made.

Other interesting factoids learned here included the use of prison labor to construct most of the building, as well as details on the stop made in Columbus by Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession (with this city being one of the last stops prior to arriving in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois for burial, the body was not in terribly good shape as it was laid in state in the Rotunda area for mourners.

The following photos document some of the other more interesting details we encountered on our tour:

Looking up from inside at the cupola from the Rotunda. Our tour guide stated that the designers
wanted to keep true to the building's Greek Revival architecture and determined that
a cupola was the appropriate structure to top the Statehouse, not a dome (which is Roman in origin.)
The Statehouse Rotunda floor from afar; one does not get the pronounced rounded
convergence effect when you're standing on the surface itself
The George Washington Williams Memorial Room detailed the life of this multi-faceted
individual. Along with being the first African-American Ohio legislator, he served as
a soldier, author, minister, journalist and lawyer in his relatively short life (Williams
died at the age of 41.)
The Statehouse, which took over 20 years to build due to various delays, has a foundation
consisting mainly of limestone mined from a quarry on the west side of the Scioto River
Some of the elegance that flows through the Nathan B. Kelley-designed House
Chamber. Our tour guide said many thought these touches were over the top, but
they ended up remaining. A six-year restoration project started in 1990 brought
the chamber back to its glory, including installation of reproduction
chandeliers based on period sketches and modernized electronic capabilities.
A closer view of one of the Statehouse's limestone walls. Numerous fossils
such as this trilobite can easily be found.
The iconic "Perry's Victory" painting by artist William Powell, which hangs
in the Rotunda. Ohio Legislators balked originally when Powell asked for much
more than the agreed upon commission. However, after Powell put the painting
on tour and received a U.S. Government commission to paint a second version,
Ohio officials relented and bought the original.
Pete the Pigeon stands guard on the Senate side of the Atrium. Pete is a nod
to this area's former informal designation as"Pigeon Run."\ According to our
tour guide, people rushed between the House and Senate building
in this formerly outdoor area to avoid being unceremoniously dumped
upon by these feathered fiends. The Atrium was finally enclosed from the
outside for safer human passage in 1993.
Plaque that commemorates President Abraham Lincoln's first speech to
Ohio citizens in 1859. As he was not well-known at the time to state
residents at the time, his speech was heard by only a few-dozen people
Some of the graceful touches that populate the Grand Staircase in the
Senate Building. Our tour guide informed us the Senate was built several
decades after the original Statehouse, and was meant to be much more
elegant than its more simple, functional neighbor.
The Ohio Statehouse tour proved to be an informative and engaging look at what is obviously a prominent part of Ohio history. Having taken the same-style tour at California's house of government (as a tourist with my spouse,) I can safely say any Ohio visitors to the Golden State will get an equally intriguing look at the statehouse located in Sacramento.

And if you do pop over to visit California's capitol building, be sure to view all the paintings of past state governors. It is then when you can contemplate what it would be like to have, say, former Governor James Rhodes or current Governor John Kasich painted up in the same style as former (and current) Governor Jerry Brown did after his first terms in California's highest seat.

The Ohio Statehouse
1 Capitol Square (Downtown)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 752-9777

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