In May of 2021, we were happy to be able to stop in and do a tour of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on our way back to Detroit after seeing the beautiful Mackinaw Bridge and Mackinaw Island. I am not exactly sure which state number this is, but we are close to 30-35 I think. Anyway, it is a beautiful capitol and I am happy we were able to take a tour.
It was a guided tour (yay) and our guide was very knowledgeable. She let us know that that capitol in Lansing opened up originally on January 1, 1978. For a little note of history, it was one of the first capitols to place a large cast-iron dome on top. Thought that was cool. However, it was not the first capital of Michigan. The actual first capital was in the city of Detroit but was relocated to Lansing in 1947.
The current capitol building houses the chambers and offices of the Michigan Legislature, the office of the Governor of Michigan, as well as the Lieutenant Governor. It stands on 1.16 acres, is 267 feet high from the ground to the tip of the spire on the dome, is 420 feet long, and is 273 feet wide. The building is quite big and actually encompasses four stories, two grand staircases, and the rotunda. It is quite beautiful inside. We made our way inside and headed toward the information desk to sign in for our tour. We were a little early so we just wandered around a little while waiting for the tour to start.
This floor is now mostly used as offices, storage, and the Information Desk. It was never intended for public use, but has been beautifully renovated and is now where the public entrance is located, as well as the restrooms. You can also get a great view of the dome above. I took several pictures of course, lol.
The first floor is where you first can see the interior of the rotunda as well as the eight muses paintings displayed which were painted in 1886 by Tommaso Juglaris. This is where you can see the aforementioned offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. One interesting side note, on this floor you will also see a large clock which they call the Long-drop clock. The clock was apparently once the master clock of the building and it still working today thanks to some restoration efforts made in 1990. They say it is as old as the building, wow.
Here you will find the Gallery of Governors with portraits of former Michigan Governors through the years. Today this floor also holds the governor’s offices. If you are interested in the chambers or the Supreme Court, you can see the former chambers of the Michigan Supreme Court on this floor. I enjoyed seeing this area.
I love seeing the chambers while touring a capitol and the third floor is where you can see the Senate and the House of Representatives Chambers. The Senate has 38 members and is located on the south side of the building, while the House of Representatives is on the north side with 110 members. I like how each of the chambers is different which is usually the case at most capitols that have bicameral legislations. We spent a few minutes here on our tour as everyone seemed to enjoy these rooms as well. We actually came back to look once the tour was over.
As I said earlier, the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing is actually the third state capitol. The first was in Detroit but when it was selected as the capital, it carried a provision that it would only remain the capital until 1847. Per the legislation, it had to be permanently moved to another city by 1847.
So in March of 1847, the Governor named Lansing Township the capital of Michigan to the many citizens who were horrified at the idea. They called the area a “howling wilderness” as not even a village existed in the location. It was completely barren land. Even though there was no town, the state of Michigan only had 9 months or so to build a capitol, thus they hastily put up a wooden structure as a temporary capitol building. On a side note, the city of Lansing wasn’t even incorporated until 1859. I thought that was funny that it was the state capital, but wasn’t even technically a city, lol. Anyway, after many years of delay due to the Civil War, the city started efforts to build a permanent state capitol. It is what we toured on our visit and again was dedicated on January 1, 1979.
After the tour, we walked around and went back to some of the places we wanted to see and look at some of the pictures, etc. When we were finished we headed outside to walk around the grounds a little bit. They call it Capitol Square and has many species of trees, statues, and monuments spread out across the huge lawn. Of course, you can’t help seeing the statue dedicated to Austin Blair. Governor Blair, who served from 1861 to 1864, was in large part responsible for inspiring and organizing Michigan’s war effort. Interestingly enough this is the only statue that honors a specific person. There is also a huge cannon that represents their involvement in the Civil War.
Another historical thing of interest on the Michigan State Capitol lawn is a large granite cornerstone. It is marked with two dates: “1872” marks the start of the construction of the Capitol and “1878” marks its completion. The cornerstone was laid during a gala ceremony on October 2, 1873. So cool. We had a great time touring the capitol and highly suggest stopping in to take a tour if you are in the area. Here is their website with more information if you want to plan your own visit. Happy travels.
Michigan State Capitol Visitor Information
100 N. Capitol Ave Lansing, MI 48933
517-373-2353 or 517-373-2348
Mon – Fri from 9 AM – 4 PM
No Guided tours on the weekends
Mon – Fri from 8 AM – 5 PM
Follow I-96 to US-127 north. Take US-127 north to I-496 west. Follow I-496 to Pine/Walnut St exit and then follow Walnut St (one way going north) to Allegan St. Turn right onto Allegan St. (one way going east). The Capitol is on the left.
From Traverse City
Follow M-37 south to M-113 east. Take US-131 south to M-115. Continue on M-115 and merge onto US-10 east and then onto US-127 north to I-496 west. Follow I-496 to Pine/Walnut St exit and then follow Walnut St (one way going north) to Allegan St. Turn right onto Allegan St. (one way going east). The Capitol is on the left.
From Grand Rapids
Follow I-96 east to I-496 west. Follow I-496 to Pine/Walnut St exit and then follow Walnut St (one way going north) to Allegan St. Turn right onto Allegan St. (one way going east). The Capitol is on the left.
Metered parking for cars, trucks, and vans is located on the streets surrounding the Capitol. Various meters allow between one and four hours of parking at the rate of $1.25 per hour. Meters accept coins only.
Personal vehicles may park for $1.00 an hour at the Michigan Library and Historical Center in the south parking lot between Washtenaw, Butler, Kalamazoo, and Sycamore Streets. The entrance for the parking is located off Kalamazoo Street, three blocks north of the I-496 expressway and two blocks east of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (M-99). Parking fees are paid at the entry/exit gate by credit card only.
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4 thoughts on “Michigan State Capitol in Lansing – The Great Lakes State”
How stately and beautiful it looks! Love the architecture. I’ve never been on a tour of a state capitol building, but can see why it would be great to have a look around.
My son will be studying States in his Homeschool Class this year and I can’t wait to share the post with him so he can get to know more about this State. Thank you, for sharing. Have a good day.
Hi Glenda. Hope he enjoys learning about the states. We have been to many other state capitol buildings that he may enjoy as well. Best of luck to him in his studies. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Happy travels.