Madison, WI: State Capitol Building Tour

Saturday morning in Madison we woke up early to take a tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol building.

The tours are free and run on the hour (check the website to see what the schedule is for when you'll be there). We got in the first tour of the day on Saturday, 9am! There were about a dozen other folks with us (and a few joined late throughout).

Taking a tour is definitely worth it. The building is amazingly beautiful, but we learned so much more and appreciated more by having a tour guide. (We also got into more rooms this way; the special office of the Governor, Supreme Court, Senate, etc. rooms are locked on the weekends.)

This is the third Madison capitol building, and was completed in 1917 to the tune of $7.2 million. It was most recently restored to its original glory in 2001 at the cost of $145 million. So, yeah, it's pretty nice inside. The atrium is jaw-dropping. It is made of several kinds of marble from all over the world.

The dome is the largest granite dome in the world.

No need to get lost; the lamps in the ceiling tell you what direction you're facing and what street you'll pop out on.

There is a replica Liberty Bell here, without the crack.

Possibly the most interesting thing in the building is the story of Old Abe the war eagle. Click to enlarge the photo describing the Wisconsin eagle from the Civil War, and you can learn more about him here.

Our tour led us through the atrium, a variety of special government rooms, and throughout corridors on the whole building. We passed by many, many badgers (read about why Wisconsin is called the badger state here).

The Office of the Governor is even more elaborate than the atrium, if that's possible. I am a big fan of super fancy ceilings (European style, gilded and intricate) and I quite liked this room.

You can find fossils throughout on the stairs, like this particularly well preserved and visible starfish.

The architect who designed the capitol building wanted to let in as much natural light as possible, so the main government rooms have really cool glass ceilings.

The marble in the hearing room also has some secrets. The panels below (and throughout the building) have been sliced into quarters and opened up so they mirror one another.

In keeping with the natural light theme, even some of the floors have skylights.

I think our guide said this is the oldest electronic voting board in the country (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Here's Old Abe! Actually, this is a replacement Old Abe. The original stuffed bird was lost in the fire that destroyed the previous building.

If you have some time, after your tour, head up to the observation deck. You will have to climb stairs to get there (no other way, as far as I could tell) so be aware of that.

We were here during the farmer's market hours, so all around the building were vendor booths (although it wasn't actually as big as we thought it would be) and lots of people.

This view is looking toward UW's campus.

We found a tiny door near the observation deck entrance (I am 5'2"-ish).

Definitely at least walk by the building if you are in Madison; it's beautiful. You can go in and wander around the whole place with no problems. Part of the intent is that it's a building for the people. But if you have about an hour or an hour and a half, take a tour and pop up to the observation deck, it's well worth it!
Madison, WI: State Capitol Building Tour Madison, WI: State Capitol Building Tour Reviewed by Maria on 5:03:00 PM Rating: 5

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