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I am in love with the Nebraska capitol

February 15, 2011

I have a fondness for Art Deco. When I visited the Nebraska capitol building in Lincoln, I was absolutely blown away by the architecture and the décor.

The capitol is not the same-ol’, same-ol’ traditional (read: boring) dome structure. It’s a 400-foot, towering monument to modernity, constructed over ten years and completed in 1932 (same year as my house). The only state capitol building that exceeds it in height is the 450-foot Louisiana capitol, also completed in 1932 (which I have also visited, but I don’t recall as having had such an impact).

The Nebraska capitol building cost came in just under the $10 million budget (something like $150 million in today’s dollars), and was paid for upfront, as is the Nebraska way.

(Note: the first two capitol buildings from 1868 and 1889 had “structural problems,” reminding me of this Monty Python clip. I am *so* glad the current structure was well built!)

Here is the official webpage for the Nebraska capitol. It has good information on visiting hours, etc., which you should definitely take advantage of when you are in Lincoln.

Yes, the webpage includes a link to “virtual tours,” but the virtual tours are just nausea-inducing 360-degree twirls that don’t let you click to zoom on interesting details or to intuitively enter other rooms. The building space is just too big and too grand for such a gimmick to work. You must visit it in person!

You could base an entire college class on the symbolism in this building. It has tributes to all the important aspects of human life in Nebraska: agriculture, science, religion, education, service, natural history, the arts, industry, indigenous peoples, mythology, law, medicine, the weather, justice . . . I know I’m leaving out a lot.

And, I love, love, love the art. (I just discovered you can “take home pieces” of the art and architecture in the form of collectible ornaments.)

Here are some of the many photos I took in the capitol the day I visited. They do not do it justice. I say it again – you must see this building for yourself!

The sower sculpture tops the building. Note the thunderbird symbols that surround the base of the dome.

Love the cathedral-like arches down this hallway, which includes busts of notable Nebraskans.

Glad Chief Standing Bear made the hall of noteables.

Do you know Chief Standing Bear’s story?

Chief Standing Bear is also depicted in a painting on the 14th-floor Memorial Chamber, which is done up in black marble and made husband think of Sauron's tower.

The Chief Standing Bear painting reflected on the adjacent highly polished black marble wall.

Detail of carved marble surrounding doorways in the Memorial Chamber.

Back downstairs, I must include some shots of the mosaics on the floor in the rotunda. There are circular elements with mythological-looking human figures representing various elements of life, but my FAVORITE is the timeline border of prehistoric Nebraska beings. Love! It!!!

The creatures depicted go from squishy, spineless things to vertebrate sea creatures, to land dwellers (including insects!) to birds and mammals and eventually a series of pachyderm relatives like those featured in the State Museum, which I also visited when I was in Lincoln. You can see an overall view of the rotunda floor taken by a professional photographer here. I’ve done a bit of mosaic work myself, so I really appreciate all the design work that went into this floor.

Here are some random details from the building.

And the variety of lighting fixtures! Oh my!!

Can you imagine a government in these United States constructing something so grand these days? (Iowa has a requirement that public buildings include some art, which is nice, but hardly something conducive to gorgeous buildings on this scale.)

If you have any interest in art, architecture or culture, go visit the capitol building! Go! (Again, this is filed under “things to do or see in surrounding states” because Lincoln is so far away from this end of the state.)

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 12:35 pm

    It’s an impressive sight–especially in person!

  2. February 21, 2011 7:52 am

    WOW! I had no idea… I know several people have told you this Katie, but you give us a whole new perspective on Nebraska, a state in which several of us have lived in most of our lives in. Thank you for opening a whole new world for us. This is on my to-do list next time I make it back to Lincoln.

  3. David Butler permalink
    April 27, 2011 8:02 am

    A friend and I walked around the outside of the building last night 26-Apr-2011. We were awe struct looking up at the magnificent works of art on the outside of the building. We were visiting from Iowa on business and took a walk around the city. There are other interesting building in downtown.

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