After being in Arizona MANY times through the years, Gene and I had never been able to do a tour of the Arizona State Capitol building, also known as the Arizona Capitol Museum. Happily, on a trip in December of 2021, we were finally able to visit this capitol and learn more about the history of Arizona. We ended up doing a self-guided tour, not sure if they have guided ones, but we grabbed a flyer about the capitol and set out to see what we could see and learn. You can also watch my video if you would like to see more pictures that are not on this post.
One of the first things you can’t help but notice is the exhibit about the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It is always so humbling to see an exhibit about this tragedy, but they did have a really nice display and plaques that explained a lot about the ship and its history before being destroyed during the said attack. In this section called USS Arizona: Flagship of the Fleet, you will see the battleship’s silver service and other artifacts that were used on the ship, as well as a 48-star flag. That was really cool to see.
We left that exhibit area a little sad, but happy to explore the rest of the capitol and learn a little more about the building itself. There are actually four floors in this building and it was suggested that we start from the top and make our way down. Oops, we messed that up by seeing the USS Arizona exhibit, oh well, lol. We did learn that the Arizona State Capitol was completed on August 17, 1900, and became the state home of the territorial government of Arizona in 1901. It was officially dedicated on February 25, 1901. Then in 1912, this building became the actual state capitol when Arizona became the 48th state. Imagine that, having a state capitol BEFORE the territory was even a state. Through the years the state continued to expand and eventually, all government branches relocated and the statehouse became the Arizona Capitol Museum.
We did end up going to the fourth floor where you can see the original House Chamber from the gallery, or as they call it, the Old House of Representatives Gallery. It is quite impressive. This is where the public was able to observe the House at work from 1901 to 1960. More on that in a bit.
Another exhibit we were able to see while exploring this floor was called “Under the Copper Dome”. Taking a closer look at the dome you can see that it has a rounded-shaped skylight and is coated in copper, and has a 17 feet tall white singed victory statue above the dome. What I learned while doing research for this post was that originally the dome was light gray until 1975 when the entire roof was covered in copper. New copper was placed on the dome in 2011 in preparation for the 2012 statehood centennial.
After a while, Gene and I somehow got separated, and I just explored jumping from floor to floor depending on what interested me. One thing that really interested me was the information about the Miranda – VS – Arizona case. We watch A LOT of Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, etc, and police drama shows and have heard the Miranda warning stated many times (even read it in many murder mystery books). However, I admit that I had never stopped to think about why that became a part of the arresting process.
The decision sprang from the arrest of Ernesto Miranda in Phoenix. He was arrested in his house and brought to the police station where he was questioned by police officers in connection with a kidnapping and rape. After two hours of interrogation, the police obtained a written confession from Miranda. Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape, but the Supreme Court concluded his rights against self-incrimination and to have an attorney present in the interrogation room weren’t protected. The court made the decision on June 13, 1966. Miranda was later convicted again of raping and kidnapping the 18-year-old. The verdict in the Miranda v. Arizona case had a profound effect on law enforcement in the arrest and questioning of defendants; ultimately creating the Miranda Warning recited to suspects by law enforcement officials. So now I know and will never hear the warning without thinking about Ernesto Miranda.
While in the Arizona Capitol Museum make sure to check out the Lego Flag. It is a cool seven-foot-tall flag made with exactly 114,006 Lego bricks which represents the total number of square miles in Arizona. How interesting is that?
One thing I always enjoy seeing, besides the chambers is the state seal. This one has a unique story according to one of the displays. It states: In 1923 a large tile mosaic of the State Seal was laid on the first floor. Unfortunately, the artist who designed the mosaic lived in Ohio and had never seen the Arizona State Seal before. They were furnished with a written description and several drawings. In the end, the mosaic of the Seal differed slightly from the original design, notably missing the cow to the right of the miner. I had to go and look up the State Seal myself to see where the cow was, lol.
While walking around we were able to get a glimpse of the old Governor’s office as well as the Secretary of State and Mining Inspector’s office. Again these have been relocated. We also saw a section where we learned about bills and how they become laws. I had a laugh because I always think about the song I heard on tv when I was a kid “I’m just a bill”, lol. I can’t believe it, but I found a copy of it on YouTube. Enjoy it.
Credit for Youtube Video goes to “TheGreatWorker”.
One more thing I want to share before I end this post is about the Arizona Liberty Bell. It was cast in 1950, is one of 53 Liberty Bell replicas sent to each state and several territories to promote U.S. savings bonds. This one is located right at the entrance of the Arizona Capitol Museum. I think the last Liberty Bell we saw outside of a capitol was at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau. Funny how the AZ one gets hit so hard with the heat, while AK gets hit with the cold. I am sure they need a lot of upkeep. 🙂
We had a great time being able to finally find time to do a tour of the Arizona Capitol Museum. I learned a lot and some of it will stay with me forever. Here is a link to their website if you want to plan your own visit in the future.
Arizona Capitol Museum Visitor Information
1700 W Washington St Phoenix, AZ 85007
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Self-Guided tours are available when the museum is open.
From I-17 take Exit 197, State Capitol/19th Avenue. Drive north to Jefferson, then east across the 17th avenue entrance to the Wesley Bolin Plaza parking lot.
From I-10 (Papago Freeway) take Exit 143C, turn south on 19th Avenue. Drive to Jefferson and turn east across 17th Avenue to the Wesley Bolin Plaza parking lot.
If you are coming from the Downtown Phoenix entertainment district or Convention Center area, you can drive west on Washington. Look for the entrance to the north visitor parking area before you get to 17th Avenue.
METRO Light Rail does not have a station near the Arizona State Capitol. The nearest station is about a mile away at 1st Avenue and Jefferson.
Free parking is available in the Wesley Bolin Plaza, east of the museum. Parking lots are accessible by heading west on Adams Street towards 17th Avenue, or east on Jefferson Street towards 15th Avenue.
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