Texas Capitol

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Texas Capitol

The Texas Capitol Building is probably one of the most photographed sites at Austin, Texas.  It is the last of four capitol buildings built at Austin.  Constructed during the period from 1882-1888, the building is of Renaissance Revival design and stands 311 feet high measured from the base to the tip of the star on the statue that tops the Capitol dome.

According to the State Preservation Board, the plans and specifications for the Capitol called for its construction of native limestone, but all of the limestone found near Austin contained discoloring iron particles. Abner Taylor proposed using limestone from Bedford, Indiana, but the Capitol Board and Governor John Ireland wished to use Texas red granite from Granite Mountain near the site of present-day Marble Falls in Burnet County. The owners of the mountain, George W. Lacy, William H. Westfall, and Nimrod L. Norton, offered to give the state enough granite for the building. Taylor initially refused to use the red granite because he believed the difficulty of working the stone would make it too expensive.

In early 1885 subcontractor Wilke informed Taylor that it would cost much less to use donated red granite in a simplified style agreed upon by architect Myers than limestone with the extensive decorative carving originally agreed upon. However, Taylor kept this information a secret, and continued to assure state officials that he could not afford to use red granite because of its additional cost. Finally, on July 25, 1885, he signed a supplementary contract in which he agreed to use red granite for the Capitol if the state would supply it free of charge, share the “extra cost,” construct a narrow-gauge railroad from Burnet to Granite Mountain, and furnish convict labor to quarry the stone. Taylor also agreed to pay the state for the use of the convicts and to provide room and board for them.

A fire in 1983 severely damaged a portion of the building, and the legislature created the State Preservation Board to address the needed repairs to the building and general restoration.  In November 1985 the original Goddess of Liberty was removed by helicopter. A new statue, cast of aluminum in molds made from the original zinc statue, was placed on the dome in June 1986. The restoration cost of $450,000 was paid by private donations.  The replaced goddess was moved to the Bob Bullock State History Museum when it opened and continues to be on display there.

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