Sunday, April 16, 2017

Texas State Capitol

South entrance of Texas State Capitol as seen from the former Texas General Land Office building
The story of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas is far too lengthy to tell in one blog post.  Its history is as big as the State of Texas!

Elijah E. Myers of Detroit was already working on plans for a new State Capitol in 1881 when the 1853 Capitol burned to the ground.  A new building was constructed nearby to serve as a temporary Capitol.  When the new Capitol was dedicated in May 1888 the steps from the burned Capitol were still on the Capitol lawn.
Original plans called for the Capitol to be constructed from native limestone hauled in from Oatmanville on a railroad constructed specifically for transporting the 25 ton blocks.  However, in March 1884, just a month after the railroad was completed, it was determined that the limestone was unsuitable for building with after the first load arrived in Austin.  After much negotiating and political wrangling and modification to the original plans it was agreed that red granite from Granite Mountain in Burnet County would be used to construct the Capitol.  The date was July 21, 1885. Government moved slowly even then! It would take 6 years and 10 months to complete the Capitol.

  • The 1990-1995 Texas Capitol Preservation and Extension Project returned the building to its 1888-1915 appearance and modernized mechanical and safety features.  
  • A 2010 project painted and refurbished the dome and cupolas. 
  • A 2-year project completed in 2016 repaired and stabilized more than 700 wooden window frames and their plate glass; many are original to the building (note the scaffolding in some of these pictures made in 2016).  In addition, the entire exterior was cleaned, inspected and repaired as needed. 

The Texas State Preservation Board oversees the preservation and maintenance of the Capitol and other buildings, including the Governor's Mansion.

At the dedication ceremony in May 1888 Senator Temple Houston, youngest son of Sam Houston, delivered an eloquent address that praised the "noble edifice" and further proclaimed, "The architecture of a civilization is its most enduring feature, and by this structure shall Texas transmit herself to posterity, for here science has done her utmost..."

To be continued.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Goddess and the Lady

(Due to my oversight this was posted on in error.  I've copied it here and will soon have a post up on the Texas State Capitol.  Read and enjoy!)
What do the Goddess of Liberty and Lady Justice have in common other than they each overlook their respective kingdoms?  Well, they share many common things with one exception. Let me introduce you to these two lovely ladies.
The Goddess of Liberty sits high atop the Texas State Capitol surveying the busy city of Austin while inside the Capitol every 2 years the legislature oversees the government of the state.  Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers in 1881 and placed on the Capitol dome in 1888 the Goddess was constructed of zinc, cast in 4 parts, hoisted to the dome and assembled with large screws, and took her place standing tall at her height of 16 feet.
The Goddess received a coat of white paint in 1915 and then several years later was given black hair, pink skin and a blue robe by an unidentified painter.  In 1939, fortunately she was restored to her all white color scheme and has remained as such ever since.
Lady Justice sits atop the pediment of the Navarro County Courthouse and surveys the city of Corsicana.  She was probably put in place when the Courthouse was constructed in 1905 and remained there until 1941 when County Commissioners agreed that she needed to be painted and restored. She was removed, but never heard from again.  Her whereabouts remain unknown even today despite much searching.
The Goddess had a little happier experience, thus the difference in the stories of the two statues. In 1983 it was determined that time and the elements had taken their toll on her, so in 1985 she was removed by a Texas National Guard helicopter and lowered onto the lawn for a while until she was whisked away for some much needed attention.  However, she would not be returning to the top of the dome.  After restoration she is now on display in the Bullock State History Museum near the Capitol.  She is however, somewhat disjointed as her hand and star were not restored and are displayed at the Capitol Museum.  Interestingly, it was discovered in 1994 that the star was actually a time capsule!
The Goddess’ accurate replacement was cast of a high-strength, corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy that was donated by Aluminum Company of America. She still stands 16 feet tall, but the replica Goddess weighs about 9,000 pounds less due the use of the lighter material. She did encounter a bit of a problem in reaching her resting place due to high winds and the limited vision of the pilot in the Chinook helicopter.  The Mississippi National Guard brought over one of their CH-54A “skycrane” helicopters on June 14, 1986. This time the flag draped Goddess was dropped right in place and secured by the waiting crew. A large crowd of spectators reacted with much cheering!  click here to watch the video of the Goddess being lowered to the Capitol
But poor Lady Justice! Residents of Navarro County felt that something was missing without the Lady gracing the pediment. When the current Courthouse restoration began the Lady was included in the plans.  Heather and Little worked along with the Texas Historical Commission and ARCHITEXAS to carefully replicate the Lady.  They relied on old photographs and similar statues to produce the copper statue that was reinstalled in June 2015. click here to visit Heather & Little’s web site, scroll down to watch the video of the re-installation and see close up photographs.
Today both replicas grace their respective buildings, stern faced with their solemn task. When I recently visited both sites I had no idea of the interesting stories behind the statues so I didn’t bother to make specific pictures.  On future visits I will definitely be zooming in!