By now you’ve noticed, Texas is a pretty darned big state. So it only makes sense that Austin would have a Texas-sized capitol building.
There’s a reason the sight of the Texas Capitol Building is so overwhelming. Okay, maybe two reasons. There’s the Sunset Red granite, which gives the building its distinctive pink hue. But most remarkable is the building’s size. It’s the largest state capitol building of all 50. And even though it is slightly smaller than the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., it’s one of only a handful of capitol buildings that are taller than the national capitol.
The Texas Capitol was built in the 1880’s, following the destruction (by fire) of the 1853 capitol building. The Goddess of Liberty statue was placed atop the dome in 1888, completing the project.
When you visit the Texas Capitol building, you’ll want to stop in at the Visitor Center first. It’s located in the southeast corner of the 22-acre complex of government buildings. The photo above shows the view you’ll see when you step out of the Visitor Center, and head towards the building.
Before you head inside, notice this old fountain. It was the Capitol Building’s water supply, starting in 1889, when a 1,550 foot deep well was dug. The artesian well provided enough water for drinking, sanitation, radiator heat, and a steam-powered electricity generator to power the building.
From the south-facing entrance, there is a great view down Congress Avenue, towards many of Austin’s skyscrapers.
As you walk through the doors, be sure to notice the hinges!
Once inside, you can walk into the middle of the rotunda, stepping across the 1936 terrazo floor. We’ll get a better look at the floor in just a moment.
Look straight up, and you’ll notice a star at the center of the dome, 218 feet above the floor. From here, it looks pretty tiny, but it’s actually 8 feet wide. The star was installed in 1958.
You’ll find a portrait of George W. Bush here, as well as all the other governors and presidents of Texas (presidents, of course, were before the Republic of Texas joined the Union).
There are four floors open to the public, and sadly you can’t climb to the top of the dome. Head up to the second floor, and take a look down at the rotunda floor. The floor depicts the six seals of the countries that, at one time, ruled over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States.
On the second floor, you can access the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives…
…and even get a close-up look at the buttons they push to vote. 150 members meet in the House, 31 in the Senate.
Keep going to the fourth floor, for the best view of the rotunda floor.