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. 

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]


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