From late 2004 through to spring 2007, Capitol Square underwent a massive renovation. That's why I couldn't take some of y'all on a Capitol tour when you came to Richmond. Visitors used to enter the Capitol building from the west side, pass through security scrutiny, and begin the tour. We arrived at the Capitol on a hot, sunny Thursday afternoon and stand in the new, modest-sized semicircular plaza that has been carved out of Capitol Hill on Bank Street near 10th. The lobby area is circular and the built-in information counter is set opposite the front door and is crafted from the same stone as that used on the building's exterior. Carved into the curved stone walls above the desk is a 1789 quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Double doorways on each side of the desk lead into the core of the building. One of these doorways on each side is dedicated to security scrutiny. A little ways ahead, there is a gift shop on the left and loos on the right. The walls throughout the area are from limestone that was quarried in Israel. The first place where the street widens is immediately beyond the gift shop. Here a large space awaits the installation of a permanent history exhibition. Temporarily, a number of large display panels provide an architectural history of the Capitol. Finally, visitors arrive at a grand stairway. On the left at the top of the monumental staircase is Meriwether's at the Capitol. Following the curved right-hand wall of the atrium is another grand staircase that leads to a space directly under the front steps of the Capitol. This is a good point at which to turn around and see the distance you've traveled and enjoy the view from this high vantage point. I like the concept of a visitors centre and a subterranean passage to the Capitol building itself, but the modern style of the new part clashes with, rather than complements, the old style of the Capitol.
Fondest memory: The metal frame for the Capitol's 1886 steam-powered lift was discovered and turned into a stairwell during the Capitol's 2004–07 restoration. The decorative frame, nicknamed "the birdcage" outlines an open shaft extending from the Capitol's first floor to its skylit roof.
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Favorite thing: Virginia's official state seal has the Latin phrase Sic Semper Tyrannis, or "thus ever (or always) to tyrants." It is often misinterpreted as "Death to Tyrants", and both seem fairly applicable to this state which was instrumental in shaping the United States of America. The original phrase was attributed to Marcus Brutus in the time of Julius Caesar, but was given to the Virginia Convention in 1776 by George Mason (long before his basketball team reached the final four). If you would like to see this particular seal, it is located in the Virginia Capital Extension.
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