Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City
You don't expect to find neo-classical architecture in Oklahoma, but that is the style of this building with a strange history. The original was built in 1914-1917, but due to budgetary and other problems the planned dome was not added. For years it had the distinction of being the only capitol without a dome and the building looked unfinished (well, it was unfinished). Finally, 85 years later, using the plans of the original architect, the dome was added. This is the inside view. Topping it on the outside is a wonderful 22 foot 9 inch sculpture of a Native American called "The Guardian," done by Enoch Kelly Haney, an excellent artist of Seminole and Creek ancestry whose family followed the Trail of Tears. A beautiful finish!
This statue stands near Centennial Plaza at the state capitol and pays tribute to the contributions of Native Americans to the state of Oklahoma. I mentioned elsewhere that the state has the largest Native American population of any state and has done a good job of appropriating and honoring that heritage. The statue was done by Allan Houser, a Chiricahua Apache born in Apache, Oklahoma. It is called "As Long As The Waters Flow." It is ironic that many of the treaties forced upon Native Americans when we wanted their land moved them to a new land which was to the theirs "as long as the wind blows, as long as the grass grows, as long as the water flows." Of course, we really meant "or until we decide we want this land too."
Topping the new dome on the state capitol is a sculpture of a Native American, called "The Guardian." It was done by an excellent Native American artist, Enoch Kelly Haney who is of Seminole and Creek descent and whose family came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. He is also a member of the Oklahoma legislature. It symbolizes the perseverance and steadfastness of the people of Oklahoma in guarding their heritage. Inside the capitol is this miniature which stands about 7 feet tall.
When completed in 1917, the state capitol building project ran out of funds before a dome could cap the new structure. This feature being absent made the Oklahoma capitol building more unique, as one of perhaps a dozen that did not support a dome. Once the new dome was constructed in 2001-2 at a cost of over $20 million, I was appalled at the expense and new addition, thinking our beloved state capitol was no longer unique, but rather a larger version of the one in Salt Lake City. I held this view for months, until the dome made the hitherto subdued capitol more visible from countless viewpoints around the city.
Every capital city in the United States has a state capitol building, as frankcanfly can readily testify. Along with its other "capital" buildings, most cities dress their state capitols in theatrical lighting after sundown. Superb and imposing by day, the structure is even more artistic at night.
Along with agriculture and to some extent the railroad, Oklahoma's premier industry has been oil and gas over the last 100 years. As such, it's no surprise that an oil derrick has been operational on the capitol lawn pumping "black gold" up until a few years ago. In the 1920s and 30s, the area was littered with dozens of derricks! Today, the capitol dome and one last remnant of this important industry make a fitting politico-commercial pair.
While we are commemorating fallen friends and family, the War Memorials outside the Oklahoma Historical Society deserve attention. Since statehood in 1907, young Oklahomans have been sent into battle in all the major wars. Arching around the center of the pavilion is a sculpted panorama typifying the type of combat encountered in those wars. An eternal flame burns in the corner of the war pavilion, while in the opposite corner a single GI looks on, bleak and weary, at the legislature that sent him into harm's way.
Started in 1914 and technically not finished until 2002, Oklahoma's state capitol was a long time in coming to completion. What took so long? Well, the orginal plans called for the building to have a dome, just like the capitols of most other states and the nation. But funding problems and steel shortages during WWI caused the state to complete the building in 1917 without the planned dome.
Fast forward 72 years and the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, formed to plan celebrations leading to Oklahoma's statehood centennial in 2007 endorse efforts to raise private funds to complete the dome. Construction on the 157 foot dome, topped by a 17ft. tall statue of a Native American, "The Guardian," was completed and dedicated on November 16, 2002, Oklahoma's 95th Birthday. The dome caps a building with over 11 acres of floor space and 650 rooms. The building is more than 300 feet deep and 422 feet wide. Hand carved and hand painted details abound throughout.
There are several beautiful and historic murals including one painted in Paris, France by Gilbert White in 1921, honoring WWI veterans . The rotunda contains four murals chronicaling various chapers of Oklahoma's early development. Below the murals are four large portraits of famous Oklahomans: Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee syllabary; Will Rogers, famous entertainer and author; Olympic champion Jim Thorpe,and former U.S. Senator, governor and oilman Robert S. Kerr.
Speaking of oil and gas, perhaps the most unusual claim of the Oklahoma State Capitol is that there are several producing oil wells on its grounds. Also on the grounds are several large statues and a plaza containing the flags of each Indian tribe with headquarters in the state.
This is not the most elaborate capitol buidling, but still nice. It is located away from the downtown along with other state buidling. It used to be the only one without a cupola, and they were building one when I was visiting.
Oklahoma is the only state capitol with an oil derrick on its grounds - a fitting tribute to the important role that the state's vast petroleum deposits stimulatation of its economic growth. Not too many years ago, it continued to be a producing well. I don't know if that is still the case.
This stately mansion has been the official residence of Oklahoma's Chief Executive since 1928. Designed by the same architectural firm that was chosen to design the State Capitol Building, the Governor's mansion reflects the same Dutch Colonial style.
The capitol's dome can be seen throughout much of the city. Until the year 2002, that was not the case, as the dome was not added until that time. The building, its grounds, and the surrounding government buildings are well cared for. Soon to be unveiled will be a new Oklahoma History Center, across the street from the capitol building.
Oklahoma was designated as Indian Territory until 1898, and did not become a state in the union until 1907. This stylized, contemporary sculpture on the grounds of the capitol building pays tribute to the numbers of tribes who called this land their home, as well as the thousands who still live in the state.
As part of a sightseeing tour around OKC, I visited the State Capital building.
The architecture is very familiar for these types of buildings but the public areas inside are worth a few minutes of your time.
Around the circumference of the dome can be found some magnificent large picture by Wilson Hurley depicting western scenes. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take snaps of these.
More pictures in the Travelogue.
There is an oil rig on the front lawn of the capitol building in Oklahoma City....the capitol itself is really nice...the interior has lots of Native American artwork. This is a must see.