10 Great Images of U.S. State Capitols

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State capitols get almost no respect. Most of these enormous buildings are taken for granted, and the only time many people visit one is to participate in a protest. That’s a shame. These buildings are architectural marvels, filled with intricate design features, adorned with beautiful murals and other artwork. And it’s amazing to think many of these grandiose structures were built in the 19th or early 20th centuries, in huge public works projects. Here’s a brief tribute to America’s state capitols.


10 Madison, Wisconsin

© Katie Wheeler

The frosty tone in this photo makes the Wisconsin capitol look like an ice palace. The capitol’s massive dome is made of granite, and is the largest dome of its type in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. This building is celebrating its centennial in 2017.


9. Austin, Texas

© Thomas Hawk

The rotunda of the Texas State Capitol glows under low-light conditions. Like many others around the U.S., this structure is heavily modeled after the U.S. capitol.


8. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

© Darrell Miller

Standing 34 stories tall, Louisiana’s state capitol is the tallest capitol in the U.S. Legendary Louisiana politician Huey Long backed the project and pushed for its completion in less than two years, thwarting efforts to stop the project. It opened in 1932.


7. Des Moines, Iowa

© Jason Mrachina

This structure’s biggest claim to fame: it’s the only five-domed capitol in the U.S. Finished in 1886, the building’s dome is covered in 23-carat gold. And in an age today when cost overruns for such a project can run into the millions, construction of the $2.87 million Iowa capitol resulted in only $3.77 in unaccounted funds.


6. Boston, Massachusetts

© Zack Lee

Completed in 1798, the Massachusetts State House is one of four state capitols built in the 18th century, along with the capitols in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. The building’s dome has gone through several different phases. It began as a wood dome, then was covered in copper a few years later, then gold plated after the Civil War.


5. Olympia, Washington

© Mari Wirta

Even in daylight, the 90-year-old Washington capitol is one of the most visually impressive in the U.S., overlooking a lake, with a walking trail to admire the views.


4. Montpelier, Vermont

© Mark Goebel

Vermont lawmakers could do a lot worse than this image for the cover of their annual holiday cards. While most state capitols dominate their city’s skyline, that’s particularly true of the Vermont State House; Montpelier, with a population of less than 10,000, is the smallest city to serve as a state capitol. The Neoclassical and Greek Revival structure opened in 1833.


3. Lincoln, Nebraska

© Kiley via Flickr

Standing 400 feet tall, this 85-year-old building is nicknamed the “Tower of the Plains” for obvious reasons. As in several other capital cities, a Lincoln development code restricts the size of new buildings to preserve the capitol as the tallest structure in the city.


2. Boise, Idaho

© Charles Knowles

The Boise foothills provide a great backdrop for the Boise skyline and state capitol (at right). Completed in 1920, the structure is located, appropriately enough, at the end of Capitol Boulevard.


1. Salem, Oregon

© Ian Sane

The cherry trees and wildflowers are in full bloom at the Oregon state capitol. The capitol celebrates the blooming of the more than 150 Akebono cherry trees each year on Cherry Blossom Day. Opened in 1938, this Art Deco structure is the third Oregon capitol building; the first two were destroyed by fire.

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