Virginia’s Capi­tol gets up­dated his­toric land­mark des­ig­na­tion

Na­tional His­toric Land­mark is high­est honor given to his­toric site

The Progress-Index - - LOCAL - Con­trib­uted Re­port

RICH­MOND — The United States Na­tional Park Service (NPS) Wed­nes­day an­nounced that is has ap­proved a re­vised Na­tional His­toric Land­mark des­ig­na­tion for Virginia’s Capi­tol.

To more fully re­flect the wide ar­ray of re­sources and their abid­ing na­tional sig­nif­i­cance, the name and cat­e­go­riza­tion of the Capi­tol prop­erty has been up­dated by NPS from “The Capi­tol of the Con­fed­er­acy” to the “Virginia State Capi­tol.”

“The strong and sensible stew­ard­ship of this na­tional treasure is a high pri­or­ity for me and all Vir­gini­ans,” said Wil­liam J. How­ell, Speaker of the Virginia House of Del­e­gates. “The Virginia State Capi­tol is the home of the old­est elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive law-mak­ing body in the West­ern Hemi­sphere, go­ing back to 1619 and the Virginia House of Burgesses. De­signed by Thomas Jef­fer­son, the Virginia State Capi­tol is a world-class ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece that set the model for pub­lic ar­chi­tec­ture here and across Amer­ica.”

“It is fit­ting that this des­ig­na­tion up­date comes as we pre­pare to com­mem­o­rate our 400th an­niver­sary in 2019,” said Sen­a­tor Ryan T. McDougle, Chair­man of the Se­nate Rules Com­mit­tee. “Our Capi­tol is an in­cred­i­ble re­source that con­nects vis­i­tors to his­tory, ed­u­cates cit­i­zens about the vi­tal­ity of our Com­mon­wealth, and in­spires peo­ple of all ages to be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in our shared and on­go­ing ex­per­i­ment in self-gov­ern­ment.”

His­tor­i­cally, the Capi­tol houses the old­est leg­isla­tive body in Amer­ica. The build­ing marks the be­gin­ning of Amer­ica’s Clas­si­cal Re­vival move­ment in ar­chi­tec­ture. The cor­ner­stone of the Capi­tol was laid dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov. Pa­trick Henry in 1785. An­other found­ing fa­ther, Thomas Jef­fer­son, de­signed the Capi­tol with the as­sis­tance of French ar­chi­tect Charles Louis Cléris­seau. His in­spi­ra­tion for the Capi­tol was a Ro­man tem­ple, the Mai­son Car­rée, lo­cated in Nimes, France. The Capi­tol be­came the home of the Gen­eral Assem­bly of Virginia in 1788 after the re­moval of the seat of gov­ern­ment from Wil­liams­burg to Rich­mond.

Among many no­table events, Virginia’s Capi­tol saw the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the U.S Bill of Rights in 1791 and the fa­mous trial of Aaron Burr in 1807. The Ex­ec­u­tive Man­sion was com­pleted in 1813 and it re­mains the na­tion’s old­est Gover­nor’s res­i­dence in use. In 1816, French im­mi­grant Max­imil­lian Gode­froy de­signed a land­scape park around the Capi­tol. Two years later, the cast iron fence was added cre­at­ing the cur­rent 12-acre Capi­tol Square. Be­tween 1861-1865, the build­ing served as the Capi­tol of the Con­fed­er­acy. In 1906, the orig­i­nal Jef­fer­son-de­signed Capi­tol was added to with the con­struc­tion of wings and hy­phens, which pro­vided en­larged cham­bers where the House of Del­e­gates and Se­nate of Virginia now meet. In 1990, the Virginia Capi­tol hosted the in­au­gu­ra­tion of L. Dou­glas Wilder as the na­tion’s first elected African-Amer­i­can Gover­nor. And, be­tween 2005-2007, the his­toric Capi­tol in­te­ri­ors were re­stored to their ap­pear­ance when the wings were added in 1906. A 27,000 square foot underground ex­ten­sion also was added while pre­serv­ing the ex­te­rior beauty of Mr. Jef­fer­son’s Capi­tol.

The nom­i­na­tion for the up­dated Na­tional His­toric Land­mark des­ig­na­tion was pre­pared and sub­mit­ted jointly by the Capi­tol Square Preser­va­tion Coun­cil and the Virginia Depart­ment of His­toric Re­sources.


The Virginia State Capi­tol build­ing is seen in this 2012 photo.

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