Capitol Domes

1/21/2020

Kansas Capitol Dome

Domes, Domes, Domes

When we think of capitols, many of us immediately conjure up an image of a dome similar to the U.S. Capitol where the U.S. Congress meets. But state capitols, just like the states themselves, are unique and none is an exact replica of the federal building, nor should it be. The unique nature of capitols is what makes them iconic symbols to their citizens rather than cookie-cutter copies of the famous dome in Washington, D.C.

So, What Is a Dome?

A dome is usually the top half of a large sphere, though some domes are shallower. Some capitol domes are even octagonal and can also be smaller and sit atop a cupola tower. Most capitol domes are hollow to create the high curved ceilings we typically equate with rotundas.

Massachusetts Capitol

Historically, domes have been used in churches and other religious structures for at least 2,000 years. They have played a part in U.S. civic architecture, primarily in capitols and courthouses, since the construction of the Maryland (1788) and Massachusetts (1798) statehouses. The architect for the capitol in Boston, Charles Bullfinch, also added a dome to the U.S. Capitol in 1822. But the dome we all know today, a large painted cast-iron half-sphere on a massive drum tower, was built in 1866.

A few states built their capitols with the federal model in mind. Twelve capitols feature a large central dome made of painted cast iron, stone or concrete. These look the most like the U.S. Capitol. Michigan and Texas have painted cast-iron domes. Minnesota's dome is the second-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world. Only St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is larger. Rhode Island has the fourth largest self-supporting marble dome in the world.

Dome Facts

  • Ten are gilded: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
  • Nine are copper clad: California, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.
  • Seven are made of stone: Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
  • Two are terra cotta: Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
  • One is brick and concrete: Washington.
  • One is zinc: Illinois.
  • The newest dome, added in 2001-2002 belongs to Oklahoma.
  • Two capitols have a cupola tower: Delaware and Nevada.
  • Only one dome is made of wood: Maryland.

No Dome?

Oregon CapitolAs mentioned, state capitols are unique. So, it should come as no surprise that another nine capitols and three legislative buildings have no dome or cupola: Alabama (State House where the legislature meets), Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota and Virginia. Three states, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee, used a Greek-style drum tower as the central architectural feature of the capitol instead of a dome. Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota have multi-level buildings. Arizona has separate buildings for the Senate, House and governor. Hawaii and New Mexico have constructed buildings designed to reflect the unique culture of their states.

State

Domes

Without Domes

Alabama

White Dome
Topped with a domed cupola and flagstaff (governor and other executive branch officers still occupy the capitol).

Legislature meets in the eight-floor State House, built in 1961.

Alaska

 

Flat roof, art deco.

Arizona

Copper Dome
Dome is wide and shallow. Capitol is now a museum.

Legislature does not meet in the Capitol. House and Senate have their own buildings. 
Governor is in the Executive Tower. All are adjacent to the old Capitol.

Arkansas

Stone Dome
Limestone dome topped with a gold-domed cupola.

 

California

Copper Dome
Topped with a gold-domed cupola adorned with a gold-plated copper ball.

 

Colorado

Gold Dome
Gold leaf on cast iron topped with a gold-domed cupola adorned with a lighted globe.

 

Connecticut

Gold Dome
Dome encircled by six pairs of statues representing agriculture, commerce, education/law, force/war, science/justice and music, and topped with pointed roof cupola.

 

Delaware

Small White Domed Cupola Tower
Topped by a weather vane.

 

District of Columbia

Cast-Iron Dome
Cupola is also cast iron. Topped with a bronze "Statue of Freedom."

 

Florida

 

Flat-topped international-style skyscraper (next to the old Capitol).

Georgia

Gold Dome
Copper on terra cotta under gold leaf topped with domed cupola adorned with a statue of "Miss Freedom."

 

Hawaii

 

Gently sloped roof with central, open-air courtyard/rotunda representing a volcano.

Idaho

Stone Dome
Topped with a bronzed copper eagle.

 

Illinois

Zinc Dome
Topped with a zinc domed cupola and a spire.

 

Indiana

Copper Dome
Topped with a copper-domed cupola adorned with a flagstaff.

 

Iowa

Gold Dome
Topped with a gold-domed cupola adorned by a gold ball and finial.

 

Kansas

Copper Dome
Topped with a copper-domed cupola adorned by a bronze statue of the Kansa warrior "Ad Astra" (statue was placed on top of the dome in 2002).

 

Kentucky

Terra Cotta Dome
Constructed over a steel beam dome and topped with a lantern cupola.

 

Louisiana

 

Art deco skyscraper topped with a beacon.

Maine

Copper Dome
Topped by a lantern cupola adorned with a gilded copper statue of a female figure, "Wisdom," holding a lighted ball aloft.

 

Maryland

Small Octagonal Dome
Two-level cupola topped with an acorn-shaped gilded finial.

 

Massachusetts

Small Gold Dome
Topped with a gold-topped cupola adorned with a golden pinecone.

 

Michigan

Cast Iron Dome
Topped by a domed cupola, spire and finial.

 

Minnesota

Marble Dome
One of the few self-supporting marble domes in the world. Surrounded by 12 stone eagles and topped with a cupola and gilded ball.

 

Mississippi

Stone Dome
Topped with a domed cupola adorned by a gilded eagle.

 

Missouri

Stone Dome
Topped by a domed cupola and statue of "Ceres," the goddess of grain and agriculture.

 

Montana

Copper Dome
Topped with a statue of "Lady Liberty."

 

Nebraska

Small Gold Dome
Art deco skyscraper topped with a bronze statue of "The Sower."

 

Nevada

Fiberglass Octagonal Domed Cupola
Silver-colored (governor and other executive branch officials occupy the Capitol).

Modern domed Legislative Building.

New Hampshire

Small Gold Dome
Topped with a gold-domed cupola adorned with gold eagle.

 

New Jersey

Small Gold Dome
Topped with a gold-domed cupola adorned with gold finial.

 

New Mexico

 

Pueblo, Territorial and Greek Revival styles embodied around the physical shape and design of the Zia sun symbol (represented on the state flag).

New York

 

White granite Victorian chateau.

North Carolina

Copper Dome
With anthemion crown (governor & lieutenant governor occupy the Capitol).

Modern legislative building.

North Dakota

 

International-style skyscraper.

Ohio

 

Greek Revival with a two-story drum tower.

Oklahoma

Precast Concrete and Stone Over Steel Dome
Topped with a statue of a Native American entitled "The Guardian" (dome and statue added in 2001-2002).

 

Oregon

 

Modern Greek with a drum tower topped by a gilded bronze statue of the Oregon Pioneer.

Pennsylvania

Green Glazed Terra Cotta Dome
Topped by a gilded bronze statue of "Miss Penn."

 

Rhode Island

White Marble Dome
Self-supporting dome topped with a cupola adorned by a gilded bronze statue of "Independent Man."

 

South Carolina

Small Copper Dome
Topped with a copper-domed cupola and flagstaff.

 

South Dakota

Copper Dome
Topped with a copper-domed cupola.

 

Tennessee

 

Drum tower topped by a flagstaff.

Texas

Iron Dome
Wrought iron and galvanized iron painted to match the red granite Capitol. Topped with a cupola, adorned with a statue of "The Goddess of Liberty" holding a gilded star.

 

Utah

Copper Clad Dome
Plaster and terra cotta copper-clad dome.
Topped with a copper-clad domed cupola, and an illuminated globe.

 

Vermont

Gold Dome
Topped with a statue of "Ceres," the goddess of agriculture.

 

Virginia

 

Roman-style temple modeled after Maison Carrẻe at Nimes, France.

Washington

Brick and Concrete Dome
Topped with a pointed cupola and solar-powered lantern.

 

West Virginia

Gold Dome
Topped with a gold lantern cupola, gold staff and gold eagle.

 

Wisconsin

Stone Dome
White Bethel Vermont Granite (largest dome by volume) topped by a gilded bronze statue of a woman, "Wisconsin," holding a globe with an eagle and wearing a helmet with a badger on top.

 

Wyoming

Small Gold Dome
Topped with a gold peaked octagonal cupola.