Earlier this year Gene and I were in West Virginia checking out their state capitol building and exploring the area. While in the area, we also decided to take a tour of the Ohio State House as they call it. It is located in the city of Columbus, OH and was a very interesting capitol. It is situated on a 10 acre parcel of land in the Franklinton area on the west side of the Scioto River.
Construction actively began on July 4, 1839 with the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone. Interestingly enough, prison labor from the Ohio Penitentiary was used to construct the foundation and ground floors of the building. Designed with a Greek Revival style, the broad horizontal mass of the building and the even and regular rows of columns resemble such buildings as the . The Statehouse was opened to legislators and the public in 1857 when the House and Senate began meeting in their respective chambers and most of the executive offices were occupied. It was completed in 1861. This amazing building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972, and was designated as a US National Historic Landmark on December 22, 1977.
Sadly we came in between tours and only had some much time that day. Thus we grabbed a self-tour guide and made our way into the building. The first thing you can’t help but notice is their huge liberty bell. I love how they have it showcased so proudly to welcome guests and visitors. Of course we had to take a few pictures and made our way to where the tours start (even though we weren’t doing a guided tour, we thought it would be a great place to start). This remarkable room is stated to be one of the most popular elements of the Ohio State House. On the floor in this room you will find a large map of Ohio which illustrates Ohio’s 88 counties. This true-to-scale map allows visitors to pass through all of Ohio’s counties during one visit to the Statehouse in less than 30 seconds. Much quicker than driving through them, lol. It was such an entertaining way to show all the different counties in Ohio. Not to be overshadowed by the flooring, the room itself is constructed of five different types of marble from around the world. It is a truly beautiful room.
One thing that most capitols buildings have is a rotunda, and I wanted to share a little bit before I moved onto the cambers and such. The Ohio State House does indeed have a rotunda, and it is very unique. To start with, the floor of the Statehouse rotunda is composed of almost 5,000 individual pieces of marble, which were cut and fitted by hand. Can you imagine how long that took? Anyway, what is so unique is that the design at the center of the floor traces the development of the United States. There are 13 stones in the center which represent the original colonies and there are three rings symbolizing areas of territory that enlarged the nation. Surrounding the rings is a star burst with 32 points, one for each of the states in the Union when the floor was laid down. Surrounding the entire design is a gray band representing the U.S. Constitution. I thought this was so wonderful and impressed with all the thought that went into the floor of the rotunda.
Of course, while in the rotunda you have to look up and check out the dome from the interior. In the middle of the dome is a hand-painted Great Seal of Ohio, a reproduction of the Seal that was in use in 1861 when the Rotunda was completed It is also quite impressive. It is not just a dome, but it is also what they call a cupola. The cupola is 70 ft. tall and 64 ft. wide and acts as an observation deck for viewing the surrounding city. A note of history, this area is the last original unrenovated area of the Ohio Statehouse. If you want to climb about 300 steps I think, tours are available by special request and visitors traditionally sign their names on the cupola’s walls. We didn’t know about this, thus didn’t go up there, but apparently the oldest signature reads “J. Cook 1870”. Wow, so amazing.
I always love checking out the Senate and House of Representatives at capitols so we decided ot head upstairs and see if we were able to get in without a tour guide. Before I share a little about the chamber, I have to share some information about the grand stairs at the Ohio State House. They are truly amazing and beautiful. They are a matching pair of staircases that were built in 1901 and lead to the second floor. At the top of the stair is an equally amazing stained glass seal which is surrounded by murals which depict some important Ohio themes: art, justice, agriculture, and manufacturing. Lighting made it difficult to get a good picture, but it was so beautiful.
We finally made it to the Senate and the House of Representatives Chambers. The Senate Chamber is approximately the same size as the House Chamber and accommodates Ohio’s 33 Senators, while the House of Representatives accommodates Ohio’s 99 Representatives. The desks on the Senate floor are reproductions of the originals, with the exception that these desks are wired for microphones, telephones and computers. The representatives’ desks rest on a raised platform, which was added at the turn of the twentieth century. This platform now provides representatives with disabilities easier access to the floor and creates space for computer, telephone and microphone wiring. From what it looks and sounds like the color scheme in the Senate and House Chamber is the same as it appeared in 1861 and features approximately 25 different colors of paint, mostly French blue, straw yellow and salmon.
If you are at the capitol try to take some time and check out the grounds. There are a lot of them, but I would be amiss to not mention the statue of Christopher Columbus, the namesake of the Ohio capital city. As the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage approached in 1892 many Americans sought ways to recognize what many felt was the beginning of the nation’s history. Thus one resident had a statue of the Italian explorer made which is now a fixture of Capitol Square. The base upon which the statue is mounted was created in 1992, the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s voyage, and was rededicated on Columbus Day of that year.
I enjoyed learning a little bit about Ohio history and touring this amazing capitol. You can feel how much work and thought went into all the details to make the capitol as beautiful and meaningful as it is today. If you are even in the area, or passing through, it is worth the time to stop and visit, even if it’s just a quick tour. You will not be disappointed. Here is a link to their website with more information. If you have been to this capitol, please drop a line a comment and share your experience. I am interested in what you thought of the building and the grounds. Happy Travels.
Ohio State House Visitor Information
1 Capitol Square Columbus, Ohio 43215
Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m
Sat. & Sun. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m
Guided tours are available every day, except on state holidays. Walk-in tours start on the hour, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays in the Map Room, and on the hour, 12 to 3 p.m. on weekends. Please call 614-728-3726 for more information or to schedule a tour for groups of more than 10 people. Visitors are also welcome to take a self-guided or cell phone tour.
Ohio Statehouse visitors are invited to park in the facility’s underground parking garage. This convenient and affordable parking solution offers direct sheltered access to the Ohio Statehouse and Senate Building. There are fees depending on where you park.
The Ohio Statehouse is handicapped accessible and senior friendly.
There are designated barrier-free Ohio Statehouse entrances. Accessible entrances are located:
*East side of the CS on Third Street
*Underground Parking Garage South Sliders
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