Nebraska State Capitol

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Kansas
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I went to the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln today.  With a population of around 250,000, Lincoln is much larger than Cheyenne but I was still able to find a free parking space a block from the capitol.  The capitol was a bit busier than the Wyoming capitol and they offer tours throughout the day.  I went on one of the tours.

Unlike most state capitols, it's not modeled on the US Capitol.  The building from above would look like a square divided into four smaller squares.  At the center of the large square is a 400-foot tall, 14-story, white limestone tower.  The rest of the lines are two stories and the centers of the four squares are courtyards.  The building is built in what was called by the architect "freely interpreted classical style".  The building was built between 1922 and 1932 and you can see elements of various styles from around that time.  It is known as The Tower of the Plains.

All three branches of government meet in the capitol.  Nebraska originally had a House and a Senate but shortly after the capitol was completed they switched to a single governing body called the Unicameral, the only one in the nation.

Surprisingly, the building has a central rotunda although it only extends upward for a few floors since it's under the central tower.  The floors and ceilings of the rotunda, the vestibule and the main hallway on the second floor and the ceilings of the Unicameral Chamber and the Warner Chamber (the room where the Senate met when they had one) are all decorated with mosaics.

On the 14th floor is a room called the Memorial Chamber.  This octagonal room has marble walls at the bottom, a row of murals above that and windows at the top.  Above that is a domed ceiling rising to 70 feet above the floor.  There's a chandelier hanging from the center of the dome.  There are three plaques on the walls.  One has Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, another the 1868 Memorial Day Proclamation and the third honors President Kennedy.

The murals, mosaics and other decorations contain a lot of symbolism relating to Nebraska's history, which was explained by my tour guide.  I would have missed nearly all of it without having it pointed out.

One interesting fact I learned about Nebraska is that Arbor Day originated here.  Most of Nebraska was prairie with very few trees and they've been trying to change that for a long time.  The largest, artificially created forest is part of the Nebraska National Forest.

After touring the capitol I headed for Topeka, Kansas where I'll tour the Kansas State Capitol tomorrow.
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