On a trip to see some friends and visit the State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, we decided to spend a few nights in Nebraska and check out their capitol in Lincoln. The Nebraska State Capitol is often known as the “Tower on the Plains,” and its 400-foot tower can be seen as far away as 30 miles. We definitely saw it from quite a distance as we neared Lincoln in May of 2010. Unless I am wrong, this is the 2nd tallest capitol next to the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.
The structure is anchored by a three-story, 437-foot square base. which houses offices on the first floor, the second floor (main floor) is home to the office of the Governor of Nebraska, the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Nebraska Court of Appeals, and the Nebraska Legislature. From the center of the base, a tower rises 362 feet crowned by a gold-tiled dome. The finial—The Sower and its pedestal—add an additional 32 feet to the building’s height. Common measurements list the capitol at 400 feet making it the second-tallest U.S. statehouse, surpassed only by the 450-foot LA State Capitol. We were definitely able to see it from I-80.
We were lucky that a tour was just getting started so we were able to tag along. It is a very interesting capitol, and we found out some very interesting info from our tour guide. First we found out that Nebraska is the only state in the Union with a Unicameral for a Legislature (meaning they have a one-house Legislature instead of a two-house legislature).
Second the city of Lincoln was originally called Lancaster until it became the capital in 1867 and it was renamed Lincoln. The tour guide also told us that the city was not named Lincoln in honor or respect of Lincoln but in spite of him. The proposed capital site was met with great vigor by those living south of the Platte. They were determined to place the capital on their side of the river. In an attempt to block the selection, a legislator from north of the Platte moved that the new capital city be renamed “Lincoln,” knowing that many south-Platters had been political opponents of the Great Emancipator. When the motion was promptly seconded by a key anti-Lincolnite, both the site and the capital city’s name were settled. Gene and I both thought the history lesson was quite fascinating.
Besides the Chambers (which I love seeing) one of the most captivating areas of the Lincoln Capitol building was the Rotunda. The floor plan of the Capitol is a cross within a square and the Rotunda, 112 feet tall, is located at the intersection of the arms of the cross in the center of the building.
However, the best part of visiting the Lincoln Capitol was seeing the views from the Observation Deck on the 14th Floor. We have definitely been in higher buildings during our travels, but I always like seeing new cities from a different perspective. It was quite interesting looking around at all the different views of the city.
Like I said earlier, it is an interesting capitol with a lot of history (as they all do I guess) and should be on your to-do list when in the area. They give free tours daily every hour on the hour, except at noon. Here is a link to their website if you want to learn more about the Lincoln State Capitol.
Nebraska State Capitol Visitor Information
Monday ‐ Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday ⁄ Holidays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m.
Guided Tours Begin at the North Entrance Second Floor Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. except at noon; Saturday/Holidays 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except at noon; Sunday 1 – 4 p.m.
The Nebraska State Capitol is located at the south edge of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, at the intersection of 15th and K streets.
From Interstate 80:
Take the 9th Street/Downtown exit and follow I-180 south into downtown Lincoln.
Turn left (east) on K Street and proceed 6 blocks
Free one and two-hour parking may be found on the streets surrounding the Capitol. Longer term parking may be found in the residential areas south of the Capitol. The nearest public parking garage is located at 12th and L streets.
Accessible parking is available on K Street adjacent to the Capitol’s north entrance. The accessible entrance is under the main north stairs and the sidewalks flanking the horseshoe drive lead to the Capitol’s accessible entrance.
The north ground floor entrance is fully accessible to those in wheelchairs. Signed parking for vehicles with handicap tags is available on K Street east and west of the main entrance plaza. Sidewalks and ramps on both sides of the horseshoe drive lead under the main staircase to the ground floor automatic doors.
Once inside the ground (first ) floor north entrance an accessible elevator is located on the right on the inside wall in room #1009. This elevator will take visitors in wheelchairs to the second floor where the tour office and main operations of the three branches of government are located. On the second floor in the hallway outside the elevator vestibule in room #2004 to the left are the tour office and other functions of government. Accessible restrooms are adjacent to the accessible elevators.
For those visitors unable to access the 14th-floor memorial Chamber, murals and observation decks, a 10-minute video of those areas is available for viewing by contacting the Capitol Tour office.
If you have any questions about access for your tour, please contact the Tour Office at 402-471-0448. FYI, the Capitol Security has two wheelchairs available for public use, 402-471-2400.
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