Learning Through Places: What Type of Place Do You Live In?
October 9, 2018
Curriculum: Learning Through Places
October 10, 2018

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Learning Through Places: The State Capitol

Connecticut Capitol, Hartford. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress

What do you see in the photograph?

Let’s learn about this place!

Where is Connecticut’s State Capitol?

Take a look at the map. Hartford is Connecticut’s capital city. Where is Connecticut’s capital city? Is it in the middle of the state or on one of the edges?

Every one of the 50 states of the United States of America has a state capitol. That’s the building where the governor and the state legislature make the laws that help the people who live in their state. Each state collects taxes to pay for its work. The state also maintains highways, operates prisons, provides social services, and many other things. Many states have their state capital in the middle of their state.

The Connecticut State Capitol is a very large building. It sits on top of a hill. It is next to a large city park. It has a tall tower topped by a dome covered in gold. At the very top is a smaller tower with an observation deck. A statue, called The Genius of Connecticut, once sat on the very top.

The building has many arches, windows, and a high, pointed roof. Statues and stone carvings decorate the outside of the building.

Hartford’s colonial capitol is now the Old State House Museum. It was one of Connecticut’s two capitol buildings for about 100 years. In the early 1870s, the people of Connecticut voted to have one capital city. Hartford won the vote. A new, larger building was needed with plenty of space for offices, meeting rooms, and hallways.

Two design competitions were held. Architects submitted drawings showing how they thought the building should look. The winner was Richard M. Upjohn. He was from New York City. He was the son of a famous architect.

The capitol up close. photo: Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress

People in Connecticut did not want a plain building. The new capitol building looks like a castle. It was finished in 1879. It is made of gleaming white marble.

Every part of the building is covered with patterns, colors, and different types of stone. Inside and out there are statues. The statues are of people and places important in Connecticut history. Some are governors, ministers, and military generals.

Did You Know? 

Marble Quarry in Canaan Village, Connecticut. Photo: Mary Donohue

Piece of Connecticut marble. Photo: Mary Donohue

Important buildings are often made from stone. Stone is more expensive than wood but lasts longer. Stone is cut from a quarry. It is cut into blocks by people and machinery. The State Capitol is made of beautiful white marble. It is from a quarry in North Canaan. The area is known as “Marble Valley.”

What is Inside the Capitol?

The State Capitol is busy every day! The governor and lieutenant governor’s offices are there. There are two very large meeting halls called chambers. One chamber is where the state senate meets. The other is where the house of representatives meets. In these rooms, the state’s elected officials talk about and vote on laws.

Hall of Flags in the state capitol. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress

There are many things to see when you visit the state capitol. The Hall of Flags shows the battle flags from Connecticut’s Civil War regiments. Our capitol is a Civil War memorial. The Civil War happened just before the capitol was built. It was fought between the northern states and the southern states to end slavery. Connecticut sent 55,000 troops to fight, and 5,000 died.

Statue of Prudence Crandall and a student statue by Gabriel Koren. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress

Nathan Hale statue (1886) by Karl Gerhardt. Photo: Mary Donohue

Connecticut’s two state heroes were both teachers. There are bronze statues of them inside the capitol on the first floor. Nathan Hale (1755 – 1776) was captured by the British and executed as a spy during the American Revolution. Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) opened a school for African American girls in 1833.

Did You Know?

Ella Grasso statue on the state capitol. photo: Mary Donohue

“The Genius of Connecticut” by Randolph Rogers. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress

There is only one statue of a woman who was a real person on the outside of the State Capitol. Ella Grasso (1919 – 1981) was the first female governor of Connecticut. Her parents were immigrants from Italy. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

The Genius of Connecticut is the other sculpture of a woman. It was originally on top of the gold dome. Genius is not a real person. She’s a symbol for the inventiveness of Connecticut’s citizens. Genius was taken down after the Hurricane of 1938. Experts were afraid she was going to fall off. The Genius inside the capitol is a plaster copy.

On Your Own

1. Visit the State Capitol. It’s free! Find out more HERE.

2. Draw a picture of the State Capitol and add a statue of someone you think should be on it. Explain what that person did to deserve to have a statue on the State Capitol.

3. Write a letter to the governor and include your suggestion for the next statue to add to the State Capitol building. Explain why you think that statue should be added.

4. Using cardboard boxes (shoeboxes, cereal boxes, etc.) design your own capitol building. What should it be built from? Wood, stone, or bricks? What rooms does it need inside? Would you put technology inside (video screens, robots, computers, etc.)?

5. Visit your town hall. Where is the City or Town Hall in your town? What does it look like? Who meets there? Who has offices there? How is it different from the State Capitol?

6. Make an Entrance! Be inspired by the State Capitol to make the entrance to your classroom welcoming.

Make An Entrance!