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State Capitol Building of Minnesota: Overview

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Minnesota State Capitol Dome"The New State Capitol of Minnesota," by Kenyon Cox.
In Architectural Record. Vol. 18, no. 2 (Aug. 1905) whole no. 83.
MNHS call number: F613.S82 C69 1905

Drawings and Plans Relating to the Minnesota State Capitol, 1890s
Blueprints and original drawings of the Minnesota State Capitol, including internal structures, architectural details, construction details, floor and room plans, elevations and sections, approaches and grounds, and diagrams of ventilation, heating, plumbing, and electrical systems. Also included is a framed "Design for the Minnesota State Capitol," longitudinal section. Some plans bear the office stamp of Cass Gilbert, architect.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in library (State Capitol File.)

Minnesota Board of State Capitol Commissioners Records, 1892-1914.

Photo albums and loose photographs documenting the construction of the third State Capitol Building.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota's Capitol: A Centennial Story, by Leigh Roethke.

Afton, MN: Afton Historical Society Press, 2005.
MNHS call number: F613.S82 R63 2005

Our Minnesota State Capitol: From Groundbreaking Through Restoration, by Denis P. Gardner.

St. Paul, MN : Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2017.
MNHS call number:: NA4412.M6 G37 2017, also available for purchase


Minnesota's State Capitol building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and was opened to the public on January 2, 1905. Inspired by Beaux-Arts design and the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, Minnesota's Capitol is one of Gilbert's most celebrated projects and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The Minnesota Historical Society has administered the State Capitol as one of its historic sites since 1969.

After the dome, one of the most prominent exterior features of Minnesota's Capitol is the Quadriga, a sculpture of a four-horse chariot sheathed in gilded copper. Titled "The Progress of the State," the sculpture is mounted on the front façade of the building just above six marble sculptures representing the six virtues (courage, bounty, integrity, prudence, truth, and wisdom). The interior of the building is distinguished by lighting and furniture also designed by Cass Gilbert, portraits of Minnesota governors, specially-commissioned artwork, murals, and the Rathskellar, a cafe in the basement decorated with frescoes. 

The current Capitol building is the third building to serve as the seat of Minnesota's government; the first building, which was completed in 1853, was destroyed by fire in 1881. A second building, built by architect Leroy S. Buffington, was erected on the same site and opened in 1883. However, poor ventilation and an inefficient design led to a push to build a new capitol building. After the current capitol building was opened, Minnesota's second capitol building was used for meetings and parking until 1932. The second capitol building was demolished in 1938.

In 2017 a comprehensive, four-year project to repair and restore the Capitol's exterior marble, roof, furnishings, and interior decorations was completed, and the building was re-opened to the public on August 11, 2017. 

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