Frequently Asked Questions About the Capitol

1. What is the "official" name of the statue on top of the Capitol dome?
2. What is the height and weight of the Capitol's dome?
3. What is the length and width of the building?
4. What is the square footage of the building?
5. What is the Entresol floor and why are the rooms on this floor numbered in the 500s?
6. How much do the enormous chandeliers in the House Chamber weigh?
7. When was the Capitol built and how much did it cost?
8. How much is the Capitol building including all its contents worth today?
9. Who were the architects, builders, and artists associated with the construction of the building?
10. When was the Capitol building completed and dedicated?
11. What architectural style is the Capitol building?
12. What is the largest piece of artwork in the Capitol building?
13. Who is the bronze figure on horseback located in front of the Speaker Matthew J. Ryan Legislative Office Building?
14. Why is the Capitol's roof and dome green?
15. Why were the Civil War flags put back in the cases in the Capitol's main rotunda?
16. How many Capitol buildings have there been in Pennsylvania?
17. How did the old Hill's Capitol burn?
18. What architectural features within the building were inspired almost directly from European buildings?
19. Why is the Capitol building designated a National Historic Landmark?
20. Why are there empty niche spaces at the fourth floor areas of the main rotunda?
21. Why doesn't the Capitol look like Huston's rendering that won the design competition of 1901?
22. What is the full version of the quote, which can be seen on two levels of the Rotunda, depicted in glass mosaic tile?
23. Was the Capitol's artwork already installed in time for the dedication in 1906?
24. Why do some preservation projects repeat year after year, such as when scaffolding surrounds the Barnard statuary at the Capitol's main entrance in summertime?
25. What happens when things wear out and need to be replaced within the Capitol building?

 


1. What is the "official" name of the statue on top of the Capitol dome?

Often incorrectly referred to as "Ms. Penn" the official name of the statue is Commonwealth. Hoisted in place on May 25, 1905, the statue stands 14 feet 6 inches high, excluding the large gilded base. Commonwealth was sculpted by Roland Hinton Perry and based on a sketch by architect Joseph M. Huston. Huston stated that she represented "the symbolic embodiment of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The statue of Commonwealth was restored in 1998.

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2. What is the height and weight of the Capitol's dome?

The top of the lantern on the dome stands 254 feet above the baseline elevation of the Capitol's first floor. The statue of Commonwealth sits atop the lantern. In all the building from bottom to the top of the statue measures 272 feet. The dome itself weighs 52 million pounds (26,000 tons) and is made of a steel skeleton, covered in concrete and brick.

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3. What is the length and width of the building?

The north to south measurement of the building is 520 feet. The centerline measurement from east to west is 254 feet and each wing measures 212 feet. The building occupies approximately two and a half acres of ground.

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4. What is the square footage of the building?

The overall square footage of the building is 442,560 square feet.
The breakdown in square footage floor-by-floor equals:

1st74,170
Entresol38,560
2nd64,660
3rd44,600
4th44,970
5th63,970

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5. What is the Entresol floor and why are the rooms on this floor numbered in the 500s?

An Entresol or mezzanine consists of an intermediate floor directly above the ground floor. As shown by the square footage, it is considerably smaller than the other floors of the Capitol. The Entresol in the Capitol serves to allow the first floor corridors to be higher than they would be otherwise. The E-floor has always been numbered as the 500 series of rooms as designed by architect Joseph Huston.

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6. How much do the enormous chandeliers in the House Chamber weigh?

The four large chandeliers in the House Chamber are estimated to each weigh 3 tons, and the smaller chandeliers weigh 1.5 tons each. There are approximately 360,000 glass beads used in the panels that adorn all of the chandeliers. It takes 168 bulbs to light each of the large chandeliers and 84 bulbs for each of the smaller ones. Today special long-life, low-wattage/energy-saving bulbs are used.

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7. When was the Capitol built and how much did it cost?

The current Capitol was constructed from 1902-1906 and cost $4.5 million to build. However the furnishings for the interior of the building cost an additional $9 million. In today's dollars that would be more than $400 million.

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8. How much is the Capitol building including all its contents worth today?

There is no way to calculate the current worth or the Capitol building due to vast quantity of art and historical items it contains. Accounting for just inflation the building would cost just under $400 million to produce today, but accounting for labor and material increases over the last 102 years, professional architects estimate that the building would cost around $2 billion to replicate.

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9. Who were the architects, builders, and artists associated with the construction of the building?

The Capitol was the design of 36-year-old Joseph Huston (1866-1940) of Philadelphia. Huston planned every detail of the building down to the custom-designed furniture, clocks, and telegraph plates. Huston's on-site architect was Stanford B. Lewis (1869-1935). The general contractor for the building was George F. Payne & Co. and a list of the principal artists is as follows:

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10. When was the Capitol building completed and dedicated?

The building was largely finished by the summer of 1906 but the dedication ceremony did not occur until October 4, 1906. Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker officially dedicated the building for the Commonwealth, and President Theodore Roosevelt was the keynote speaker. Approximately 50,000 people from throughout the state attended the ceremonies.

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11. What architectural style is the Capitol building?

The Capitol was designed in what is known as the American Renaissance style, a sub-genre of the Beaux Arts style. This architectural style incorporates numerous classical European architectural styles. To illustrate this point, the Capitol building's main chambers are done in different styles: the House Chamber in Italian Renaissance; the Senate Chamber in French Renaissance; the Supreme Court Chamber in Greco-Roman styling's; and the Governors' Reception Room in Tudor.

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12. What is the largest piece of artwork in the Capitol building?

The largest piece of fine art in the Capitol is Edwin Austin Abbey's mural The Apotheosis located at the front of the House Chamber. However, by far the largest single piece of artwork is Henry Chapman Mercer's Moravian tile floor, which spans the first floor of the Capitol. Originally the floor contained 420 mosaics representing Pennsylvania history, but now numbers approximately 375 due to the removal of some mosaics over the last century.

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13. Who is the bronze figure on horseback located in front of the Speaker Matthew J. Ryan Legislative Office Building?

The mounted figure is that of Major General John Frederick Hartranft (1830-1889). Hartranft served with distinction during the Civil War, first as Colonel of the 51st PA Vols., and later as division commander of the 9th Corp. At the end of the war he was in charge of Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison and the hanging of the Lincoln conspirators. Hartranft went on to serve two terms as governor of Pennsylvania. The statue originally stood in front of the Capitol building facing west but was moved to its current location in 1927.

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14. Why is the Capitol's roof and dome green?

The green on the roof of the Capitol and dome is actually a green glaze covering red clay terra-cotta tile. The tiles, which were manufactured by the Ludowici Tile Company of New Lexington, Ohio were chosen by Joseph Huston because Ludowici was one of the premier producers of old world terra-cotta tile at the time.

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15. Why were the Civil War flags put back in the cases in the Capitol's main rotunda?

The flags in the small cases at the rear of the main rotunda are replicas that depict how the cases originally appeared for the 72 years that Pennsylvania's Civil War flags were stored in them. From 1985-1990 the Capitol Preservation Committee conserved the original collection of 390 Civil War and 22 Spanish American War flags. These state treasures are kept safe at an off-site conservation facility in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room. Click this link for additional information about the flag collection or to schedule a tour.

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16. How many Capitol buildings have there been in Pennsylvania?

Since the founding of the United States in 1776 there have been six Capitol buildings that have served Commonwealth. The first was the old state house in Philadelphia (more commonly known as Independence Hall); the second was the old Lancaster County Courthouse (no longer in existence); the third was the old Dauphin County Courthouse (no longer in existence); the fourth was the Hills Capitol which lasted from 1822 to 1897 until it burned; the fifth was the unfinished Cobb Capitol (which was incorporated as part of the current Capitol); and the sixth is the current Capitol designed by Joseph M. Huston.

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17. How did the old Hill's Capitol burn?

There is still some debate over the exact cause of the fire, but most signs point to a faulty flue in the Lieutenant Governor's private office. An ember had fallen down onto the wooden floor joists and sat smoldering on century old dust until a draft ignited the fire. The House and Senate were both in session and quickly adjourned as fire spread and rapidly consumed the building on February 2, 1897.

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18. What architectural features within the building were inspired almost directly from European buildings?

The two most notable large-scale architectural features are the grand staircase and triple arcaded gallery and the dome. The design for the grand staircase and gallery was styled directly from Charles Garnier's 1868 Paris Opera House. The Capitol's dome is a one-third scale representation of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

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19. Why is the Capitol building designated a National Historic Landmark?

National Historic Landmarks are those properties that possess intrinsic historical value for all Americans. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark because it is one of the best examples of American Renaissance architecture in the United States and is significant to all Americans. This designation was achieved in 2006.

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20. Why are there empty niche spaces at the fourth floor areas of the main rotunda?

Even though the Capitol contains numerous works of art and statuary, architect Joseph Huston wanted to include more. These spaces were either to house statues of significant Pennsylvania figures of 1906, or to eventually hold statues of significant Pennsylvanian's in future years.

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21. Why doesn't the Capitol look like architect Joseph Huston's rendering that won the design competition of 1901?

Huston originally wanted to incorporate even more artwork into his building, including more statue groups at the north and southwest entrances and sculpture at the triangular roof areas above them. However, due to budget cuts, the campaign of artwork was scaled back and these pieces were never completed.

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22. What is the full version of the quote, which can be seen on two levels encircling the rotunda, depicted in glass mosaic tile?

In actuality, the quotation is not one single quote but several combined quotations from Pennsylvania's colonial founder William Penn. The quotations are as follows:

  • "There may be room there for such a holy experiment."
  • "For the nations want a precedent."
  • "And my God will make it the seed of a nation."
  • "That an example may be set up to the nations."
  • "That we may do the thing that is truly wise and just."

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23. Was the Capitol's artwork already installed in time for the dedication in 1906?

At the time of the Capitol's dedication in 1906, the stained glass windows by William Van Ingen and the Moravian tile floor by Henry Mercer were complete, however, most of the artwork was not yet installed. Violet Oakley's murals for the Governor's Reception Room were the first to be installed in November 1906. Edwin Austin Abbey's rotunda murals were completed and installed in 1908 along with Van Ingen's south hyphen corridor murals. George Grey Barnard's statuary groups were put in place in 1911. In 1912 Abbey's House Chamber murals were completed and installed. Oakley's Senate murals for the front wall were dedicated on Lincoln's Birthday, 1917, and the two back wall murals in 1919. Lastly, the Supreme Court murals by Oakley were completed on May 25, 1927. The last murals completed for the building were painted by Vincent Maragliotti for the first floor north hyphen corridor, which were finished in 1970.

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24. Why do some preservation projects repeat year after year, such as when scaffolding surrounds the Barnard statuary at the Capitol's main entrance in summertime?

An important part of the work carried out by the Capitol Preservation Committee is ongoing preservation maintenance. The Barnard statuary is just one of many projects that require cyclical maintenance. This invaluable program will ensure that the building and its historic artwork never befalls the neglected condition that was endured for some seventy-five years prior to the restoration. True preservation of the Capitol is a never-ending responsibility — now and into the next century.

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25. What happens when things wear out and need to be replaced within the Capitol building?

As the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Capitol endures wear and tear each day from the hundreds of legislators and staff who work in the building, along with droves of visitors that number in the thousands annually. The Committee in partnership with the Department of General Services works diligently to preserve the historical integrity of the building as well as its contents. Each instance where a repair is needed requires individual thought and measures to be taken. The following projects illustrate just a few of the approaches taken for several different areas of the building:

  • Governor's Reception Room Carpet
  • Moravian Tile Floor Maintenance
  • Ongoing Preservation Maintenance

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