Arkansas State Capitol: The people’s house and garden

Story and photos
by Linda Henderson

I’m an Arkansas history buff. I enjoy reading Arkansas history and love visiting the state’s historical monuments and sites.

My summers as a child always included a trip to the Arkansas State Capitol, and even now my job requires an occasional trip to the Capitol. Every time I enter the grand hallways, I am awestruck by the craftsmanship and architectural excellence of the building.

The surrounding landscape and gardens of the Capitol always set the stage to enter the grand old building. The landscaping is changed seasonally and highlights the historical monuments found on the Capitol lawn.

In the last few years, I have tried to visit the Capitol and photograph it every season of the year. On one of my recent photography trips to the Capitol, I talked to some of the landscaping staff. They enjoyed sharing with me how each season’s plantings are planned a year in advance. They tend a beautiful rose garden that contains multiple varieties and colors of roses. All were proud that they were caring for the century-old building and tending the landscape of the Capitol facilities.

The Arkansas State Capitol was constructed between 1899 and 1915. The original construction cost was slated to not exceed $1 million, however, as with most construction projects the cost exceeded the budgeted funds. To complete the Capitol, it required an additional $1.3 million.

The building is a Classical Revival Neo-classical style and was designed to resemble the United States Capitol. It sits on 9.9 acres of land.

According to the Secretary of State, the marbles on the floors and walls came from Vermont, the columns came from Colorado and the grand staircases came from Alabama. The exterior limestone was quarried in Batesville. The limestone used to construct the magnificent dome came from Indiana. The dome is capped off with a 24-karat gold leaf cupola.

One of the most extraordinary features of the Capitol is the bronze front doors. They are 10 feet tall and 4 inches thick.

Three outstanding chandeliers adorn the rotunda of the building. They were purchased from Tiffany’s in New York and cost $10,000.

The Capitol is 287,000 square feet. From the ground level to the very top of the cupola is 213 feet.

Many historical monuments grace the lawns of the State Capitol. On the North lawn are the bronze statues of the Little Rock Nine. This monument honors the students who attended Central High School during the integration in 1957.

There is also a Vietnam Veterans Memorial located on the Southeast lawn. It is a tribute to Arkansans who served during that era.

One of my favorite monuments is the Arkansas Fallen Firemen Memorial west of the State Capitol building. The Arkansas memorial includes four bronze statues of firefighters and contains the names of Arkansans who died in the line-of-duty since 1889.

The Capitol is free to tour and open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekend. There are guided tours or self-guided tours of the property. It is full of preserved history and heritage, and is the working center of our state government.

Linda Henderson
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