Idaho State Capitol

In 1864, the capital of Idaho was moved from Lewiston to Boise. This historic move meant that when Idaho officially became a state, the governing powers needed a place to meet. Thus, the Capitol building planning was set into motion. Primarily headed by two men, John E. Tourtelloutte and Charles Hummel, the construction of the Capitol building brought a sense of place to the citizens of not only Boise, but Idaho as a whole. As a freshly formed state, having a place to look for answers to questions regarding how Idaho would be governed, as well as having a physical location to go to in order to watch or participate in government happenings did a lot for morale and helped solidify the sense of statehood. Throughout the years, the Idaho Capitol building has overseen many meetings, events, and tours, and has gone through much to help the citizens weather the storms that may hit the state.

Construction began in 1905, 15 years after Idaho became a state. Many influences were used in planning and building the Capitol building, including aspects of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the nation’s Capitol building in Washington DC. Almost 20 years later, plans for an expansion were set into motion. The initial build consisted primarily of the center rotunda and dome as well as the north wing, which is currently used by the Joint Finance-Appropriations committee, but had been used by the Supreme Court. After the expansion was finished, a west wing and an east wing also welcomed government officials and guests from all over the place. These wings offered more space for the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The east and west wings are unique, as they house the areas of legislature that allow for citizens to attend meetings.As such, the fourth floor is open to the public and it contains balconies that allow community members to watch the meetings of the House of Representatives and Senate who meet one floor down. These sweeping rooms were redone in the 60s and are stunningly beautiful, just like the other rooms throughout the Capitol building. The governor’s suite can be found in the west wing, and several other offices of elected officials line the halls of the west wings on various floors. Initially, the Idaho Supreme Court met in the north wing, but in the 1970s they moved to their own building. Nowadays, the Joint Finances-Appropriations Committee can be found in the north wing, and they help to assign money and suggest layouts for the state budget.

When deciding how to build this majestic building, Mr. Tourtelloutte recognized the importance of having a bright space. His musings led him to the idea that there should be as much natural light as possible. Skylights and polished marble served well to make the Capitol gleam with sunlight. The rest of the building was well thought out, too. From techniques to materials, this building shows the hand of true masters at work. Sandstone from local quarries helped to build the exterior of the Capitol building, and also helped to solidify Idaho’s ideals of supporting local business which have lasted through the ages and are still visibly prevalent in today’s marketplaces and clothing stores. Four types of marble from Alaska, Georgia, Italy, and Vermont add an air of refinement to the flooring and other areas.

Though much of the beauty of the Capitol building is ornamental, many aspects of the architecture and artwork has significant meaning and symbolism. For example, perched atop the Capitol, like many other buildings in the nation, sits a bronze eagle which represents freedom and Idaho’s dedication to the nation. This serves as a constant reminder that above all, the interests of the people and their rights are primary. Inside the building, guests looking toward the dome will see stars. This shows the depiction of thirteen stars- representing the 13 colonies, and 43 small stars- a symbol that Idaho became the 43rd state in the nation. Throughout the years, this wonderful structure has been home to many meetings, decisions, and tours. As such, it began to weather which caused a need for restoration and slight renovation. Remodeling happened in the 1950s and the 1970s, when expansion and slight repairs were necessary, but the real work began in 1998 when the need to freshen up the design elements of the Capitol became more apparent and the money was set aside for that very purpose. Many things were given a makeover. From the windows to the wooden detailing and floors, everything had begun to show the wear and tear of many, many years of service. The marble flooring had chipped and cracked in places, and the electrical aspects of the building needed upgrading. During the restoration, the Capitol was brought up to code regarding fire and electrical detection and warning systems.

Thanks to the hard working men and women who have worked diligently to design, build, and maintain the Idaho State Capitol Building, there has been and will continue to be a stunning building for the members of government to meet and maintain the executive and legislative branches of the state of Idaho. Many have been blessed to be able to tour the space, and thanks to the committees in charge of historical restoration, the Capitol Building will maintain the awe and inspiring history imbued in its walls for years to come.

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