Capitol Tours | Urban Living

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Capitol Tours

Posted By on February 15, 2017, 4:00 AM

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It looks like Saturdays have been unofficially designated as "Protest Saturdays." Here, folks rally from the Federal Building up the hill to the Capitol. The Utah Highway Patrol estimated about 6,000 people attended the Women's March last month, and about 7,000-8,000 at the March for Refugees.

After your next Capitol protest dies down, I encourage you to check out the historic building. You can take a self-guided tour anytime it's open, with the help of maps and brochures available inside.

Some of my favorite parts are the different examples of beehives in the art and wrought iron railings. Here are some other highlights:

• The land was donated in 1888 by Salt Lake City to build a Statehouse. They couldn't come up with the money to build it until 1911 when the Union Pacific Railroad president passed away and the state got $800,000 in inheritance taxes from his holdings. Matched with a $1 million bond from the Legislature, the building was constructed and was dedicated in 1916.

•Look throughout the building for beehives that represent industry and unity, laurel wreaths (symbolic of victory, vitality and success) and the four lions who symbolize pride, strength, authority and protection, located outside. Each lion has a name etched into a brass plaque at the base.

• The main rotunda was left unfinished for nearly 20 years until the Depression-era Public Works of Art Project funded art commissions for the Capitol. The half-moon-shaped paintings at each end of the atrium were the first works of art placed in the building. The east mural called "Madonna of the Covered Wagon" is my personal favorite.

• If you can get into the governor's office, check out his "tornado desk," created from trees that blew down on the Capitol grounds during the 1999 freak tornado that demolished a gay bar downtown called The Sun, killed one person and wiped out massive trees around the Capitol building and the Avenues.

Utah architect Richard K.A. Kletting, who won a design competition, incorporated the most modern methods and materials of the day (like electric lights and elevators). The building was updated from 2004-2008 to protect against earthquake damage and replace the original weather-damaged lions. It's a beautiful example of government architecture and a must-see for locals and tourists alike.

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