On the evening of February 5, 1911, a lightning flash struck the dome of the Capitol. At first the fire was no bigger than a man's hand, but with limited means to fight fire that far off the ground, it soon turned into a conflagration that could be seen for miles. The entire structure with most of its contents was quickly reduced to ashes with only the exterior walls standing. The Forty-sixth General Assembly, being in session at the time, passed an act authorizing $3,500,000 in bonds. This act was submitted to the voters at a special election on August 1, 1911, and was passed by nearly a 3 to 1 vote. A Commission Board was formed, led by the Governor and by October 6, 1912, the architectural firm was chosen. Less than five years later the building was completed. Remember, this was in 1912! There was no such thing as hydraulic cranes or backhoes. The job was done with men and mules and ropes and pulleys. They did use some steam engines to operate winches to move the heavier pieces of steel and marble but most of the work was done without mechanical help. The material was either quarried locally or moved by barge on the river and rail. The building stands upon 285 concrete piers of varying sizes, which extend to bedrock at depths of twenty to fifty feet. All these holes were hand dug and the dirt was removed by buckets and rope. It is 437 feet long by 200 feet wide in the wings and 300 feet in the center. It is 88 feet from the basement floor to the top of the exterior wall and 262 feet to the top of the dome. There are four stories plus the basement, it covers three acres, has nearly 500,000 square feet of floor space and has 9,000,000 cubic feet in the interior. It's cost, not counting the property and furnishings, was 40 cents a cubic foot!
To give you some idea of the magnitude of the project, you may find the following list interesting. The steel framework weighs 5,200 tons; there is 240,000 cubic feet of stone on the building and 70,000 in the interior. They used 4,650,000 bricks and 30,876 barrels of cement in the superstructure and 12,500 barrels of cement plus 9,000 cubic feet of crushed stone in the basement. Add to that 17,372 square feet of polished glass, 8739 square feet of emery polished glass and 5,715 square feet of colored cathedral glass. There are 134 columns in the building. There are 14 columns on the front and rear of the building that are 48 feet tall and nearly 5 feet in diameter. There are 32 columns forty feet high used as central supports. Remember, these things had to come by barge and then be hauled up the hill from the river and stood up when they reached the building. It took 765 rail cars to bring the stone in, most of it from Carthage Marble.
The most monumental feature of the building is Grand Stairway and Front Doors. The stair extends from ground level to the third floor of the Legislative Chamber. It is over 65 feet from one side of the staircase to the other and this is where many of the pictures are made when the schools visit the Capitol. There is a wonderful Cathedral Skylight to light it from above and it is flanked by large columns of Napoleon Gray marble. At the entrance are bronze doors 13 by 18 feet wide and at the time were the largest doors cast since the Roman Empire.
I'll continue my history lesson next week, until then I am and remain in your service.