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Tourist-ing the Capitol

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So I live in a capital city, which is cool, and which also means that this building figures prominently in the city landscape. It may no longer be the tallest one downtown, but you can still see the dome as you drive down I-35 or stroll down Congress St., and I’ve probably taken a dozen or so versions of this very shot with my iPhone. It’s an impressive building.

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Yet despite walking the grounds several times, and standing on the steps (twice!) for the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting, before this weekend I’d never actually been inside. (Which is still more than I can say for my former home state, because I’ve never been to the Maine capital at all.) Doing a tour of the Capitol has been on my ‘Austin Bucket List’ for awhile as a fun, free activity highly recommended by my local friends, so I officially made it a goal this year and embarked on Saturday to get myself better acquainted with a part of local history.

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(and also take pictures of squirrels)

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William Henry Huddle, Surrender of Santa Anna

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These hinges were one of my favorite details, honestly.

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William Henry Huddle, David Crockett

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One each side of the entrance to the rotunda stands a statue.

To the left: Sam Houston; to the right: Stephen F. Austin.

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One the floor of the rotunda are the six seals of the six nations that have governed Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the United States of America, the Confederate States of America, and of course…
in the center: the Republic of Texas.

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On the walls of the rotunda (going up several floors) are the portraits of all the state’s former governors.

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Including this lady.

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The dome is the most startlingly impressive aspect: with well over two hundred feet between the ground floor and the top, it can be hard to tell that the star is eight feet wide.

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Up on the second level: the House of Representatives.

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Unless called into a special session by the governor, they meet for just 140 days every odd-numbered year. So if you’re a state senator or representative, it really isn’t a full-time job (see: things I definitely did not know.)

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In 1993, work was completed on a four-story underground extension, doubling the Capitol’s square footage and adding some much-needed office space.

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The skylights are surrounded by hedges, but flush with ground level.
The extension itself is all-but-invisible from the outside.

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And of course…there is a gift shop.

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All in all, it was a really interesting (and informative!) visit to one of our city’s oldest buildings. There is a wealth of art and architecture to see; I’d love to go back sometime and wander around without a tour guide, and the grounds themselves are absolutely gorgeous.

So I guess now I’ll be one of those local friends who asks, “Have you toured the Capitol yet?
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