Tennessee State Capitol
Set on the top of a hill and built with the formality and grace of classic Greek architecture, the Tennessee State Capitol strikes a commanding pose overlooking downtown Nashville. Construction of the State Capitol began in 1845, two years after the state legislature finally agreed that Nashville would be the permanent capital city. Even with the unpaid labor of convicts and slaves, it took 14 years to finish the building.
The State Capitol is built of limestone, much of it from a quarry located near present-day Charlotte and 13th Avenues. In the 1950s, extensive renovations were carried out and some of the original limestone was replaced. The interior marble came from Rogersville and Knoxville, and the gasoliers were ordered from Philadelphia. The Capitol was designed by architect William Strickland, who considered it his crowning achievement and is buried in a courtyard on the north end of the Capitol.
Visitors are welcome at the State Capitol. Ask at the information desk for a printed guide that identifies each of the rooms and many of the portraits and sculptures both inside and outside of the building. If the legislature is not in session, you can go inside both the House and Senate chambers, which look much as they did back in the 19th century. In the 2nd-floor lobby, you can see two bronze reliefs depicting the 19th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution, both of which were ratified by the State of Tennessee in votes held at the Capitol.
Guided tours of the State Capitol depart hourly Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Ask at the information desk inside for more information.
Other important State buildings surround the Capitol. The Library and Archives sits directly west of the Capitol, and next to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Tennessee War Memorial is a stone plaza on the south side of the Capitol, and a nice place to people-watch. A number of State office buildings are nearby, and State employees can be seen walking to and fro, especially at lunchtime.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition