Well in the course of our cross country journeys, we have had the privilege of visiting many state houses; but none so far have touched the grandeur of the State House Of Pennsylvania. I have a total of 62 pictures, but will not share the all here. I do however want to share a few of them and would encourage you to follow our travel vlogs at:
We left Phillipsburg NJ and headed for the grand state of Pennsylvania. Some where along the way it occured to us that we were going to pass through Harrisburg which is the home of the state capital building. We will begin our tour with downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and then travel inside to the State House. Today, Chris (The Striking Viking), will be your narrator.
With pleasure and thanks to the Trippin" Sista for her invitation I take up the narration here and hope I can do justice to her picture taking. Harrisburg was originally settled by by John Harris in 1719.
After finding a parking spot almost across the street from the State House we started taking pictures and staring goggle eyed at the historical evidence in front of us. State Street which runs as a boulevard from the State House to the Susquehanna River could easily be called "Church Row" as there are 5 churches in these few blocks and at least as many law firms.
The Capitol building is actually built on top of a previous building, which the Governor of the time considered "too ugly to gaze upon!" The capitol was designed in the American Renaissance style by architect Joseph Huston, who envisaged it as a "palace of art"
Upon mounting the steps we come to the doors of the building. There is a sign denoting the edifice as a National Historic Landmark. There are initially 2 huge bronze doors which depict the founding industries of Pennsylvania to remind all visitors of the heritage of the state. Cast into the doors are depictions of The Declaration of Independence, Governance, History, Mining, Farming, Industry and Education.
Once through the doors and the obligatory metal detector one enters the main rotunda which stand four stories in height before culminating at the 272 foot diameter 62 million pound huge dome overhead. This dome was inspired to the architect by the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The grand staircase is evocative of the great palaces of Europe. The staircase is constructed of 2 types of marble, the harder pink from Italy and the softer more lustrous white quarried in Vermont.
The dome is so large one cannot capture the entire thing in one picture. The light is brilliant and evokes the feeling one of airy contemplation. The paintings are huge and represent the principles of Pennsylvania, the mottoes painted on the walls are thought provoking.
The galleries to the left and right of the Rotunda lead either to Legislative or Senate offices. The floor was originally designed to be executed in marble, but a Pennsylvania potter argued brilliantly for brick inset with handmade tiles representing the industries, virtues and common strengths of Pennsylvania citizens. These panels of which there are 223 each about one foot square stretch from prehistory at the Senate end of the hallway all the way to the present day at the legislative end.
All of the light fixtures were executed by the Philadelphia Bronze Casting Company and more will be said about these later. As a teaser the rectangular one in the center of the picture is about 6-7 feet tall and weighs at least 800 pounds.
A gentleman was sitting in the Rotunda talking about the current economic structure of the government. The government proposed giving matching funds to each dollar that Public Service Workers contributed, but buried within the legislation was a clause that gave the State Congressmen a huge raise, and simultaneously plundered the Public Service Pension of $55 billion dollars. They have yet to address this inequity and have so far avoided passing a budget that might begin to address this grievance.
Out tour guide took us first into the Senate Chamber. The walls are covered by pictures that were done by a Pennsylvania artist who was a female.This broke a longstanding prohibition on female artists exhibiting publicly. Her name was Violet Oakley
Ah yes, back to the illumination. The lights when viewed with the naked eye, exhibit a cross shape. The reason is that when originally installed the only bulbs available were 25W., and the lights were spec'd with globes cut in such a fashion to magnify the available light, and provide more illumination than normally available. The entire building is accented with gold leaf.
One of the panels illustrates Natives entering the home off William Penn. Although there was great rancor and violence on both sides during the early days of American History, Penn was understood to be untouchable due to his pacifistic Quaker beliefs. Although the Quakers were as a rule in favor of American Independence, they were loathe to take up weapons on her behalf.
The panels painted for the room are very moving, when one understands and recognizes the challenges faced by the colonies, before the Declaration of Independence was eventually signed.
There is a very narrow staircase on either side of the building. These are also original to the building and have a very sharp pitch. They are only wide enough for one person..."no passing please"
Inscribed around the walls of the Capitol is a saying from William Penn. "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."
We are not allowed to enter the House of Representatives, because some renovations were in progress It should be noted here that the majority of the woodwork in the house is executed in mahogany. This mahogany came from British Honduras. You may recognize it better under it's current name Belize.
Our next stop was the Supreme Court. These justices are appointed, and may serve as long as they want although there is a State Law which mandates retirement at no later than 70 years of age.
The Supreme Court is likewise decorated with paintings, but many of them have hidden sayings which remind both the members of the bench, and the petitioners of the solemn responsibility of their respective positions.
It appears the Trippin' Sista has captured yours truly in a moment of repose. It was about this point in the trip, that my brain started to overload on factual information. I have found that there is only so much I can take and then ..TILT. My brain checks out.!!
The green glass dome of the Supreme Court was originally designed for the House of Representatives, but when it was completed it was found to be too big for the space which it had been constructed for. It found a home in the Supreme Court chamber. They constructed a roof over it, with open panels for the light to penetrate. It feels very cool in the room, the better to adjudicate the business of the Commonwealth.
The panels of art around the the room are as described, adjuring sensible and sober deliberation. Many references are made to immutable and Divine Law, which the practitioners are encouraged to emulate.
The room is well lit, and richly paneled in the aforementioned Mahogany. There are no juries, histrionics or public galleries in these deliberations.The justices hear, deliberate and swiftly pronounce on each case and just as quickly move on the the next docket item.
Although we were unable to enter the House of representatives we were welcomed into the gallery, where our senses were visibly assaulted by the opulence of the chamber.
The chandeliers are on a three year maintenance rotation throughout the state house. If a bulb burns out, it will get replaced with the next scheduled maintenance. In order to perform the maintenance schedule a scaffold is erected under the chandelier and a workman who must be over 6 feet tall slides open a trap door and climbs into the chandelier where bulb replacement, crystal cleaning and polishing takes place. Each of these chandeliers is about 11 feet tall and weighs as much as an elephant.
Placed all around the chamber are stained glass windows which measure 4 feet in diameter, This one represents the printed word, which industry was prominent in Pennsylvania.
This one represents religion, the exercise of which was instrumental to the founding of Pennsylvania. It is a truly fascinating history which instantaneously humbles the ego of the hearer, while simultaneously elevating their spirit.
We stopped in the cafeteria to get a bite to eat. It is located in an annex and features a large open space for the feeling of alfresco dining.
These are well maintained period buildings located on State Street. Most of the buildings were constructed in the latter half of the 1800`s. The diversity of style speaks to the vintage of the architecture.
We rounded a corner and came to an imposing brick structure. When we got close enough we could discern the tenant. it was a YMCA. Quelle surprise!!
There was a Tudor style building on Front Street. This houses the Civic Club of Harrisburg. It is located next to a pumping station. This pumping station originally featured a treadmill on which horses walked to pump water from an aqueduct across the Susquehanna River up to city reservoirs where mains delivered water to occupants by a gravity fed system.
There is a Greenway along the riverfront offering a place to stroll for residents. It is very scenic and presents an escape from the hustle and bustle of business and governance.
There is an imposing pile of brick in the post Victorian style at the corner of State and Front streets. It is available for lease (up to 11,000 sq. ft.). I shudder to think of the lease cost.
There is a statue entitled ``Waiting`` which features a nattily attired gent with a Homburg, Attache Case and newspaper seated on a bench in the Riverfront Greenway. Whether he waits for an assignation, a bus or a ride is not clear, yet he waits patiently reading his paper.
Cheekily, my beloved The Trippin` Sista peeked over his shoulder to see what her was reading. She would have shrieked had he turned around and asked ``do you mind?``
We hope you all enjoyed the journey. Thanks for coming along...:-)