Capitol Glow: Mississippi's Beaux Arts TreasureAs the twentieth century rolled around, it became clear that the Mississippi government was outgrowing its 1839 capitol building. Just a few blocks away, the state owned a vacant four-block lot on a small rise—former home of "The Walls," Mississippi's first state penitentiary. During the Civil War, the prison had been employed as a munitions depot, making it a target for destruction when Jackson was occupied by Union forces in 1863. This federal land-clearing conveniently created an ideal spot for a new state capitol location.
|Mississippi State Capitol|
|1st floor hallway|
|2nd floor corridor leading to former Supreme Court chamber|
|Partial view of Rotunda (photographed from the fourth floor)|
|Capitol Dome from the rotunda|
The third floor houses the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor as well as the legislative chambers. Legislators meet in semi-circular wings on either side of the building. Twin glass saucer domes cap the two wings, allowing light into the chambers. Each dome is a decorative masterpiece of classical mouldings and floral-themed Art Noveau stained glass. Of course, Link employed his lights sumptuously here as well.
|Dome of the Senate Chamber|
|Can't get a safer office than this|
|4th floor corridor|
Attention to detail was not neglected in the design of the exterior. A bas-relief sculpture within the pediment features an allegorical representation of the agriculture, industry and arts of the state.
|Sculpture above the lofty Roman portico|
No state capitol building we have seen (this was our #15) is more beautiful than the Mississippi statehouse. In addition to its exquisite appearance, we found the Capitol a most hospitable place. Upon our entry, Portia, the security guard on duty, greeted us and made sure we found a copy of the excellent self-guided tour brochure (and complimentary capitol dome lapel pin!). As we departed, she said goodbye, shook our hands and thanked us for coming. Her friendliness did not interfere with her professional screening of our bags and walk-through metal detector examination, but certainly made them seem less burdensome.
Kathy, the tour organizer on the first floor, was equally cordial, ensuring that we had all the information we needed and repeatedly offering to answer any questions we might have. Like Portia and Rep. Steve and other random employees we encountered and conversed with, Kathy seemed genuinely proud of their statehouse, knowledgeable about its history, and eager to share information with visitors.
Like the interior, the grounds were scrupulously maintained and accessible. Arriving before 8:30, we parked on the grounds next to the building a couple hundred feet from the entrance.
As impressed as we were by the magnificent Mississippi State Capitol and our visit, we found one aspect a bit baffling. Though there were subtle touches here and there (leaded glass elevator doors with an 'M' monogram, a mosaic M in a tile floor, brass doorknobs embellished with an M), there was very little in the capitol that was distinctively Mississippi. Portraits of all the states' governors were hung in the halls on the first floor, but there was no statuary of famous citizens, either inside or on the grounds. Even the marble niches in the rotunda, where busts of native sons and daughters are often displayed in other capitols, were empty. When we asked Kathy what is usually housed there, she told us they're used for temporary exhibits that might include anything from bouquets of magnolia blossoms to portraits of Miss Mississippi titleholders.
The Old Capitol Museum, the state's official history exhibition, is closed on Mondays, so we were unable to visit today. We're assuming the state's uniqueness is displayed there.
Mississippi Capitol Stats
- Building height: 180 ft.
- Building size: 242,500 sq. ft.
- Construction cost: $1,093,641
- Cost to taxpayers: $0
- Construction period: 1901-03
- Light fixtures: 4,750 (750 in rotunda)
- Dome surface: Terra cotta
- Site size: 13 acres
More Photos of the Mississippi Capitol
|The congenial Rep. Massengill from Hickory Flat|
|Decorative corbels supporting visitor gallery of the House chamber|
|Saucer dome in the House chamber|
|Governor's Office (seen from the opposite side of the rotunda)|
|Cast-iron balustrade overlooking rotunda from the fourth floor|
|Stained glass windows on staircase landing|
|Center of dome in Senate chambers|
|Corinthian columns supporting main portico|
|Aerial view, courtesy of Google Maps|