8 State Capitol Buildings With Unique Domes

The United States Capitol was built upon the idea that a government can be assembled with the consent of citizens and absent the whims of dictators. The Capitol is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, deriving elements and architectural characteristics from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Although most state capitol buildings reflect the same ideals, these 8 stand out for their somewhat unusual decorative toppers.

1. West Virginia

Detail from "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight" by Snoopywv via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Four different state capitol buildings have eagles atop their domes, but none quite like the West Virginia state capitol eagle. This particular bird perches atop a 25-foot bronze spire built on a 34-foot lantern at the top of the dome. The eagle also boasts red marble eyes. The better to see you with, my pretty.

2. Rhode Island

"Independent Man" byJ. Stephen Conn via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Atop Rhode Island’s capitol dome stands the Independent Man. Independently dressed in a bearskin loincloth and holding a spear and an anchor, the man was supposed to be modeled after the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams. When no one could agree on what he looked like, a generic-but-independent man was cast instead.

3. Maryland

(Detail) Jim Watson // Getty Images

Maryland’s capitol dome boasts an homage to Benjamin Franklin in the form of a 28-foot-tall lightning rod, constructed and grounded to Franklin’s specifications. The rod goes through the center of a 5-foot-tall acorn, symbolizing the strength and potential of an oak tree. Though the oak tree has a commanding amount of potential, the acorn was actually constructed from 31 pieces of cypress.

4. Wisconsin

Daniel Ormontvia Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The lady named “Wisconsin” stands 15 feet high and weighs 3 tons as she moves the state “Forward” (its motto) atop the capitol dome. In one hand she holds a globe with an eagle on top and on her helmet sits the state animal, the badger. This particular badger is not clad in a red and white striped sweater like the University of Wisconsin mascot, Bucky Badger.

5. Minnesota

Minnesota’s state capitol was originally designed with St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in mind. What really sets Minnesota’s dome apart isn’t atop the dome, but at its base. Twelve marble eagles surround the base of the dome, as well as a gleaming gold sculpture known as Progress of the State, but commonly referred to as the “Quadriga.” The sculpture’s four horses represent the powers of nature: earth, wind, fire, and water. Think Captain Planet, but with more Chariots of Fire. Below the Quadriga are six large figures sculpted in marble called the Virtues, which represent bounty, courage, integrity, prudence, truth, and wisdom.

6. Oregon

M.O. Stevens via WikimediaCommons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The 23-foot tall “Oregon Pioneer” might be the best looking statue of all state capitol statues. The “Brawny Woodsman,” as he is sometimes called, boasts a beard and a healthy head of a hair, and holds an ax in one hand while a gilded tarp hangs over his other shoulder. 

7. Kansas


After 37 years of construction, the Kansas state capitol was finally completed in 1903. However, the funding for the statue for the top of the dome wasn’t approved until 1984, a design didn’t follow until 1988, and the statue wasn’t installed until 2002.

The sculpture of a Kansa warrior called “Ad Astra” stands 22 feet tall and was taken from the state’s motto, “Ad astra per aspera,” meaning "To the stars through difficulties."

8. Hawaii

David Grant via Flickr //CC BY-NC 2.0

Hawaii’s state capitol, to no one’s surprise, looks like a resort. The legislative chambers were designed to mimic volcanos, so the interior walls curve upward; the exterior columns are carved in the shape of palm trees, and the building is surrounded by a reflecting pool. So, what’s on top? Nothing—it’s a crater. In the Hawaii capitol building, the sky is the rotunda. 

Pop Chart Lab
150 Northeast Lighthouses in One Illustrated Poster
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Some of the world's most beautiful and historic lighthouses can be found in the American Northeast. Now, Pop Chart Lab is releasing an illustrated poster highlighting 150 of the historic beacons dotting the region's coastline.

The 24-inch-by-36-inch print, titled "Lighthouses of the Northeast," covers U.S. lighthouses from the northern tip of Maine to the Delaware Bay. Categorized by state, the chart features a diverse array of lighthouse designs, like the dual towers at Navesink Twin Lights in New Jersey and the distinctive red-and-white stripes of the West Quoddy Head Light in Maine.

Framed poster of lighthouses.
Pop Chart Lab

Each illustration includes the lighthouse name and the year it was first lit, with the oldest lighthouses dating back to the 1700s. There's also a map in the upper-left corner showing the location of each landmark on the northeast coast.

Chart of lighthouses.
Pop Chart Lab

The poster is now available to preorder for $37, with shipping set to start March 21. After memorizing every site on the chart, you can get to work exploring many of the other unique lighthouses the rest of the world has to offer.

ICON, New Story
These $10,000 Concrete Homes Are 3D-Printed in Less Than 24 Hours
ICON, New Story
ICON, New Story

What makes housing so expensive? Labor costs, for one. According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the average single-family home takes about six months to construct, and that's a lot of man-hours. A new type of home from Austin, Texas-based startup ICON and the housing nonprofit New Story is hoping to change that. Their homes can be built from the ground up in 12 to 24 hours, and they cost builders just $10,000 to construct, The Verge reports.

ICON's construction method uses the Vulcan 3D printer. With concrete as the building material, the printer pipes out a structure complete with a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and porch that covers 600 to 800 square feet. That's a little less than the size of the average New York apartment and significantly larger than a typical tiny home.

The project, which was revealed at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, isn't the first to apply 3D printing to home construction. Moscow, Beijing, and Dubai are all home to structures assembled using the technology. What makes ICON and New Story's buildings remarkable is what they intend to do with them: Within the next 18 months, they plan to set up a community of 100 3D-printed homes for residents of El Salvador. If that venture is successful, the team wants to bring the printer to other places in need of affordable housing, including parts of the U.S.

ICON wants to eventually bring the $10,000 price tag down to $4000. The 3D-printed houses owe their affordability to low labor costs and cheap materials. Not only is cement inexpensive, but it's also sturdier and more familiar than other common 3D-printed materials like plastic. The simple structure also makes the homes easy to maintain.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” ICON co-founder Jason Ballard said in a release. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near-zero waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability."

After printing and safety tests are completed, the first families are expected to move into their new 3D-printed homes sometime in 2019.

[h/t The Verge]


More from mental floss studios