Minnesota State Capitol

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Apple Valley, MN

Yesterday, Tuesday, Jim, Dar, and I made the trek to downtown St. Paul to see the Minnesota State Capitol. Sue had other plans for the morning.

This would be our 9th Capitol that we've explored. Since the legislature is not in session things were pretty low-key around the building -- no problem finding a shady parking spot and little congestion.

Built at the turn of the century and opened to the public in 1905, the architect and construction supervisor was Cass Gilbert, one of Minnesota's own.

The building is a grand neo-classical design built of a steel frame and clad on the outside with white Georgia marble and St. Cloud granite. The exterior detail is rich in symbolism and numerous statues of important figures of early Minnesota history. Dominating the center roof line is an immense golden quadriga -- a four horse chariot. There are two figures holding, controlling, the four horses which represent the classical elements of nature: earth, air, fire, and water. The two figures holding the horses represent agriculture and industry -- the forces that allow man to control nature. The figure on the chariot represents prosperity. The entire sculpture is coated in 24k gold leaf. During our tour we were able to get on the roof right next to the sculpture and see it up close.

One unique aspect of this Capitol is the arrangement of the chambers for the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. In every other Capitol we've seen so far, the Senate and House are housed on the opposite ends of the building, with the Supreme Court tucked in somewhere in the middle. Not here. The Senate is on one end, the Supreme Court on the other, and the House is in the middle, in it's own wing behind the rotunda.

Another interesting observation was the lack of a security checkpoint for visitors. Every other Capitol we've seen recently had airport-type security with metal detector and armed guards. Not here. When I asked the tour guide about this she said the decision was made after 9/11 to keep the building completely open, in part because of the expense. In my opinion, I found this refreshing. While I understand the desire for safety, shouldn't it be this way everywhere? Every time we go through a security checkpoint I feel that, in some small way, the terrorists are winning.

If I had a ranked list of the 9 Capitols we've visited so far, the Minnesota Capitol would be near the top. For me it works in expressing the reverence to the founders, the hard work of people through the years to make what we have today, and the importance of the rule of law that balances order and freedom for all.

After our exploration of the Capitol, Jim took us to Morelli's Market, an institution in downtown St. Paul. Offering fresh meats, wine, liquor, and some unique grocery items, this store is pretty much the way it was 50 years ago. Narrow aisles, bustling activity, organized disorder, and great deals on quality goods make it a favorite for people from many miles around. What a neat experience.

During the afternoon we joined Sue at the house and continued our vigil to nature on the screen porch. Neighbors Bill & Jan came over for a while and joined in the conversation too. For dinner we grilled steaks and sweet corn and more. What a great way to end the day.

Since we're leaving in the morning, we said our good-byes. Thanks Jim & Sue for a wonderful visit.



Anonymous said…
Hey guys - You're making us homesick! I don't know that either of us has ever toured the State Capitol - although we've certainly driven by it often enough.

Looking forward to having you here in the Northwest for a while...

Mark and Shelly

Slightly Better than Most