For my birthday in October of 2020, we had to change plans (for the third time, ) and did a road trip to Arkansas. The main reason was to see the Arkansas State Capitol, which was actually open, and it was the only state we hadn't been to that is west of the Mississippi River. Not sure how that happened during all of our travels in the south, but we hadn't been yet. Thus we were very happy to be able to explore this state and the capitol building.
After we parked we walked toward the front and couldn't help but see the six huge bronze doors in the front of the Arkansas State Capitol. They are not the entrance doors to the capitol, however, and we had to go down and around the side to actually get into the capitol building.
Once we made our way inside we went through security and headed toward the information desk. I wanted to get our state stamp, get a self-guided tour book, and meet Cheryl who I had spoken with on the phone a week earlier. She was so nice, happily welcomed us, and shared a little about the capitol before we headed out on our own to explore.
We were standing in the Rotunda and she made sure to tell us about their beautiful chandelier. She said it weighs 4000 pounds, is approximately 12 feet in diameter, and is 18 feet tall. All of this hangs from their ceiling on a 73-foot chain. I couldn't help but compare it to the one made by Tiffany and Company which hangs in the Washington State Capitol. Both are quite impressive.
Cheryl suggested that we start on the 4th floor and make our way up to the Senate and House Galleries. Since there weren't any tours going on, and they were not in session during our visit, they were closed up, but we still got a great view from overhead. While walking around and reading the self-guided tour book we found out that the capitol actually opened on January 1 in 1915.
The Senate chamber was restored in 2002, but the painting and decor replicate what it was originally like when done in 1914 by the artist Paul Martin Heerwagen. Apparently, the marble desk is also original as well as a 1200-pound chandelier hanging from the ceiling. I really wish we had been able to go inside, as I love seeing the chambers, but glad that they had a viewing gallery to see down below.
The House of Representatives is also very interesting. I learned that the columns and pilasters were finished in scagliola. I learned that it is a mixture of gypsum, plaster, glue, pigments, and marble dust. This mixture is then applied over a base surface and polished to simulate the look of marble. It looked pretty good from where we were standing, lol. Thank goodness for the viewing areas.
Also on this floor are many displays showing Arkansas state symbols, salutes to veterans, and surveys of AR population history. We spent a lot of time checking out the state symbols displays. There were such things at the state bird, state flower, state creed, and information about their state flag. It was so interesting reading all the exhibits. The one I thought was the most interesting was that the state Cooking Vessel is the Dutch Oven.
After checking out the displays, we headed down to the third floor. On this floor, you get a great view of the four different murals painted by Heerwagon. They are located above the grand staircases leading to the House and the Senate. They are named: Education, Justice, War, and Religion. Below is a picture of the Religion painting.
The second floor of the Arkansas State Capitol holds such rooms as the Governor's Reception Room, the Rotunda, The State Treasurer's Office, and the Old Supreme Court. The Governor's Reception Room is not only the Governor's dedicated conference room, it is also where he holds press conferences and bill signings. Pretty cool to see that. On a side note, the silver plate chandelier, candelabras, scones, and the oak paneling are original to the room.
I already mentioned the huge chandelier in the rotunda, but this is also where you will find several portraits of former Governors including Bill Clinton. This is where I also learned that those six bronze doors were 10 feet tall. I was shocked to find out that they are polished by hand inside and out each week. They are very shiny. As I said, they are no longer the entrance to the Arkansas State Capitol since Sept 11, 2001, because you now have to go through security Such a shame they aren't used anymore
While on the second floor we checked out the Old Supreme Court room. This is the room where the Supreme Court met from 1912 to 1958. They ran out of space and moved to a different location after 1958. Today the former courtroom is used for legislative committee meetings, lectures, and press conferences.
The last thing we checked out on the 2nd floor was the Treasurer's office and saw the vault. From what I read, the vault door is 11 tons and created a challenge for the crew during the installation. I can't even imagine. What a task. Today it only holds a small amount of cash and is mostly for decoration. It was very interesting to see. Sadly I didn't get any good pictures, but above is a picture of their amazing staircase.
We made our way back down to the first floor and took a few more pictures. I like seeing the state seal of each state we visit and had to make sure to take some pictures of us with the Arkansas seal. Cheryl was very happy to help us capture this moment. She loves her job and I think she is very sad that she can't do full tours at the moment.
I would love to come back and do a tour with her. I am sure we would learn a lot more. Even though we only did a self-guided tour we had a great time. If you are in the Little Rock area, make sure to take time to check out the Arkansas State Capitol Building. Here is a link to their website with more information, hours, etc. Happy travels.
Arkansas State Capitol Visitor Information
Guided tours (when given again) are available Monday-Friday. To schedule a guided tour of the Capitol, call the Visitor Services Specialist, at 501-682-5080. The free tours of the Capitol Building are offered weekdays from 9am-12pm and from 1pm-3pm. Walk-in visitors requesting personally guided tours will be scheduled on the next available guided tour. Free visitor parking is located around the Capitol complex and in the lot at Capitol and Woodlane.