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Iowa State Capitol—the Hawkeye State


On a road trip through Nebraska and Iowa in May of 2010 we made sure to stop and check out the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln and the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Not sure what number capitol these were that we visited, but we were very pleased to be able to see it and explore a little bit of Iowa while we were at it. One of the first things we learned about the Iowa State Capitol was that it was constructed between 1871 and 1886, and is the only five-domed capitol in the country. I found that quite interesting.

Iowa State Capitol Liberty BellLocated at East 9th Street and Grand Avenue, the Iowa State Capitol is set atop a hill which offers a panoramic view of the city's downtown and the West Capitol Terrace. Truly beautiful. There are various monuments and memorials on its sides and front, including the Soldiers and Sailors' Monument and the Lincoln and Tad statue. All in all, there are more than 40 monuments on the state capitol grounds, including the soldiers on horseback, a miniature Liberty Bell to ring and a grave site. The grounds are just as amazing as the capitol itself.

Iowa State Capitol StaircaseThe Iowa State Capitol, seat of the Iowa General Assembly, houses the Iowa Senate, Iowa House of Representatives, the Office of the Governor, and the Offices of the Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. The building also includes a chamber for the Iowa Supreme Court, although court activities usually take place in the neighboring Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa State Capitol DomeInside, the building features an array of majesty including many different types and colors of marble, works of art, fixtures and carvings in both wood and stone. One of the most commanding features of the building is the towering dome. The dome, constructed of steel and brick, is externally gilded with 23-karat gold leaf. A belvedere on top of the large dome features a golden lantern at the top. In addition, four smaller golden lanterns are each attached to copper-covered domes at every corner of the building. These four domes are decorated with vertical lines of intermittent gold, giving each a braided look. The capitol's golden dome can be seen for miles, symbolizing representative government for the citizens of the state.

Iowa State Capitol ChamberThere are 109 rooms in the Iowa State Capitol. Each one has its own stencil designed. None of the stencil designs are repeated. The woodwork in the building is all Iowa wood. There are 12 kinds of wood in the capitol with two exceptions. The beautiful hand-carved bench in the old Supreme Court Chamber is mahogany and the benches in the Senate Chamber where the senators sit are also mahogany. Quite impressive.

Iowa State Capitol MosaicsUpstairs on the third floor, there are wonderful mosaics that were put together in Italy. The young man in the panel, which is the defense panel, is symbolic of a young Iowa farmer. He is about to leave the plow behind and pick up the sword and go off and defend his country. However, he is an optical illusion in that he will march in any direction you go.  So when you walk past him, if you keep your eyes on his feet, they'll march this way, this way, or this way.

Iowa State Capitol HallIt is a great capitol which you should take the time to tour when in the area. Tours are provided at no cost and are conducted Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. They are also held on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.  However, self-guided tours of the Capitol and Capitol grounds are available anytime during normal business hours. Click here for a link to their site and more information.


Images (7)
  • Iowa State Capitol Chamber
  • Iowa State Capitol Dome
  • Iowa State Capitol Front
  • Iowa State Capitol Hall
  • Iowa State Capitol Liberty Bell
  • Iowa State Capitol Mosaics
  • Iowa State Capitol Staircase

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