The Utah State Capitol

It's easy to find Utah's State Capitol. Perched high on a foothill on the north side of downtown, it's visible from all over Salt Lake City and the surrounding valley. Our approach was from the West, on a narrow neighborhood street that was so steep our Ford Focus Toad was straining in first gear to make the hill. Coming from the South, from downtown, the approach is less steep but still significant. Once atop the hill we found a stately building that fits right in with the Capitols of many other states. Columns, broad stairs leading to the "front doors" on the second floor, a large dome... it looks like a Capitol. This will be the 22nd of these grand buildings we've explored.

Some other states have filled their Capitol grounds with trees... in some cases, so many and so mature, it's hard to see the building (Nevada comes to mind.). But not Utah. The building stands alone, without trees, on the acreage that contains it. The open feel of the setting is appropriate for the hilltop location and is symbolic of the wide open expanses of this western State. The formal approach to the building is made from the south on a long broad walkway and sets of stairs that can get a visitor's heart a-pounding well before reaching the doors. Slow down.  Remember, we are almost a mile high and there's less air up here.

But once there, stop. Don't be too quick to enter. Take a moment, turn around, and take in the view... of the Salt Lake Valley to the south and west... of the mountains to the east... and of Salt Lake City below. At least in my book, Utah gets first prize among all the States' Capitols we've visited in the category of "best view from the front door".

click to see full size panorama of view from the front door.

This building was commissioned in 1912 (several years after Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896) when someone noticed Utah didn't have real Capitol like the other States. The idea caught hold and before long local architect Richard K. A. Kletting was commissioned to create the vision. Construction took more than three years and it was completed in 1916.  The exterior is local granite... gray, strong, and impressive. The interior, especially the second (main) and third floors, is mostly marble. Tall columns with Corinthian Capitals adorn both in and out. The style is supposed to be Neoclassical revival... whatever that is.

The Utah State Capitol is the active house of State government. It houses the chambers of the Utah State Legislature, the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as other supporting offices. In contrast with many Statehouses which have the House and Senate chambers on opposite ends of the building, Utah's design has the House on one end, the Supreme Court on the other, and the Senate in the middle. Most of the Supreme Courts day to day business has moved to another building, but the historic courtroom is still used for mostly ceremonial events.


Large paintings around the rim of the dome, the corners of the rotunda, and the ends of the vaulted atrium represent various scenes of Utah's pioneer heritage. Other sculptures and works of art are common around the building, and galleries on the 4th floor feature rotating exhibitions about Utah's history and heritage.

Between 2004 and 2008, an extensive renovation and reconstruction effort spruced up the building, returning it to it's original grandeur. Part of this effort was extensive work to make the building capable of surviving earthquakes. Essentially, the whole place is now sitting on 250 new "base isolators" which allow the ground to shake independently of the building.

It's a "must see" in our book... and ranks right up there among the better State Capitols we've visited. And there are many more photos in our online photo album.

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Here's a link to the photo album from this visit.
Thom and Dar visited the Utah State Capitol on April 30, 2012

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