The Capitol Building

As I mentioned a little while ago, I’ve decided to start a new feature here that highlights places in and around Lansing, Michigan, in case you live here or ever find yourself wondering if visiting the state capital is worth it. Also, I like to brag about my state, and while many people know of the wonders of the lakeshores, sometimes the interior of the state gets left by the wayside. So here we go, and what better place the start than the Capitol Building?

I just happen to be good friends with someone who knows more about the Capitol Building than most people know about their parents, spouses, children, or inner selves. That means I’ve heard a good deal about this lovely building over the years. But as I can never remember it all, I always welcome more little tidbits of information from her.

Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and built between 1872 and 1879, the current capitol building was preceded by a wooden one in Lansing, and before that the capitol was located in Detroit (it was moved to Lansing, a mostly unknown non-town in the swampy wilds of central Michigan, in 1847). The current building is beautiful inside and out and well worth a visit if you find yourself in mid-Michigan, especially during these cold months when you might want to retreat indoors. There is a really well-done self-guided tour, but there are also full time tour guides and many docents who would love to extol the building’s qualities and regale you with its history.

I have been lucky enough to have been taken for a walk above the etched glass ceiling tiles above the house chamber and even up over top of the domes (there are actually two of them, one inside the other) and into the lantern (see photo below) just below the spire. It pays to know the right people.

The interior is especially interesting as nothing is really what it seems. Marble columns are actually expertly painted wood. Copper chandeliers are actually a combination of nine metals (none of which are copper). The seemingly tiled floor of the rotunda is actually glass (who makes a floor out of glass?). The dome looks like plaster to me, but it is actually cast iron. The limestone flooring is peppered with fossilized sea creatures and corals, hinting at Michigan’s ancient history when it was the floor of a great sea.

As in many public buildings, it seems that every detail signifies something else. To really get the most out of your visit, I suggest setting up a tour with a guide or docent. (See if you can get Valerie Marvin; she knows everything, as evidenced in this episode of Michigan Under the Radar.)

Imagine working every day in this gorgeous building. May it inspire our public servants to fulfill their calling with honor, dignity, and grace.

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