Tour of the State Capitol

First Floor and Rotunda of the Capitol


This area's centerpiece is a 1970 copy of Antonio Canova's original statue of George Washington, which had been displayed in the original State House from 1820-1831. Canova sought to honor and even glorify Washington by depicting him in a Roman general's uniform with tunic, tightly-fitting body armor, and short cape fastened at the shoulder. The figure's short hair style is that of a Roman officer. Shown with a pen (stylus) in his hand, the seated Washington is writing (in Italian) the first words of his farewell address as presidenton a tablet.

Statue of George Washington by Antonio Canova

Around the rotunda are several plaques and busts that honor important people and significant events in North Carolina's history:

In Memory of Virginia Dare
Born on August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was the first child born to English-speaking parents in the colonies. She was the daughter of Ananias and Eleanor Dare, and granddaughter of John White. She was born in John White's colony on Roanoke Island, which later became known as the "Lost Colony."

In Honor of the Women Who Participated in the Edenton Tea Party
On October 25, 1774, 51 women met in Edenton, North Carolina, and declared they would not participate in the buying (or consumption) of tea or wear articles of "British Manufactures." This meeting has been called the "earliest known instance of political activity on the part of women in the American colonies."

In Commemoration of the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence and the Twenty-Seven Signers
On May 20, 1775, a significant meeting was held in Mecklenberg County declaring the people "free and independent. . . and acts of the King Null and Void." Though the date of the meeting is found on our state flag and the state seal, the document is not officially recognized by the state of North Carolina.

Three Signers of the Constitution from North Carolina
William Blount, a merchant planter and businessman; Richard Dobbs Spaight, a wealthy planter; and Hugh Williamson, a physician and spokesman for the North Carolina delegation. The Constitution was ratified by North Carolina in 1789.

Three Signers of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina
Joseph Hewes, a merchant and businessman; William Hooper, a lawyer and Harvard graduate; and John Penn, a lawyer.

Halifax Resolves 
This document, adopted by the Fourth Provinicial Congress on April 12, 1776, made North Carolina the first colony to recommend American independence.

Bust of Samuel Johnston
Governor from 1787 to 1789, he then became the first United States senator from North Carolina.

Bust of William A. Graham
Governor from 1845 to 1849, and later a United States senator. He was nominee for vice president in 1852 with Winfred Scott from the Whig Party. He served as Secretary of the Navy under President Millard Fillmore.

Bust of John Motley Morehead
Governor from 1841 to 1845, he was the first governor to serve in the Capitol for a full term. He is known for his emphasis on railroads, public schools, and better care for the blind, deaf, and insane.

Bust of Matt Whitaker Ransom
United States senator from 1872 to 1895 and minister to Mexico from 1895 to 1897. He attained the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War. He also served in the N.C. House of Commons and as the state's attorney general.

Southwest Suite (Governor's Office)

Since 1840, these rooms, which feature furnishing of the 1840-1865 period, have served as the offices of North Carolina's governor. The massive 1850s-style armchairs were hand crafted, as well as the pier table, believed to have been crafted by the free black artisan, Thomas Day of Caswell County. Nineteenth-century style window hangings suspended from gilded wooden rods and a fine Wilton weave reproduction carpet, featuring classical motifs, complement the office furnishings. On occasion, the governor's office is opened for viewing.

Southeast Suite
This room originally was assigned to the state treasurer but was shared by the treasurer and comptroller from 1843-1865. The room nearer the rotunda was used by the treasurer until 1971. This suite is now occupied by the governor's staff and the rooms are not open for touring.

Northwest Suite
This suite was used by the secretary of state from 1840-1888 and served as the auditor's office from 1868-1958. It is now occupied by the governor's staff and the rooms are not open for touring.

Northeast Suite
This suite functioned as the office of the comptroller from 1840-1843, and the Supreme Court chambers from 1843-1888. The secretary of state then occupied this suite from 1888-1989. The lieutenant governor used this suite from 1990-2001. Now occupied by governor's staff, it is not open for touring.

Second Floor of the Capitol

House of Representatives chamberHouse of Representatives Chamber
This room served the 120-member House of Commons from 1840-1868 and the House of Representatives from 1868-1961. The semicircular plan mirrors the design of a Grecian amphitheater. Local carpenters built the rostrums in the front of the chamber, and local cabinetmaker William Thompson made the desks for the House and Senate Chambers. At the chamber's south end are offices formerly used by the Speaker of the House and principal clerk of the House. Thomas Sully's portrait of George Washington (ca. 1818), which hangs above the Speaker's podium, is a copy of the Gilbert Stuart "Lansdowne" portrait. This painting was saved during the State House fire of 1831. The original 84-candle brass chandelier was lowered each day by a pulley to light the candles. The mid-nineteenth-century brass and copper chandelier that now hangs in the House is also lowered on that same mechanism to change the light bulbs. Records indicate that the original 1840 window shades were decorated with painted Grecian borders, so the reproduction window shades mimic decorative plaster designs in the room. The building originally was heated by 28 fireplaces, four of which are in this room. Carpet was installed in 1854 to make the chambers more comfortable. The blue curtains located behind the speakers' chairs in both chambers were added to block any drafts from the windows behind them. Both the carpets and the curtains are reproductions.

Senate Chamber
This room served the 50-member Senate until 1961, and resembles a Grecian temple in the Ionic style. The Senate has some features similar to those of the House chamber. The two rooms at the north end of the chamber were originally the offices of the Speaker and the principal clerk of the Senate. However, the Senate has two additional rooms at the south end of the chamber that served as committee rooms. The rostrums at the front are slightly smaller than those in the House and originally seated the Speaker of the Senate who is now known as the President of the Senate (i.e., lieutenant governor). There appear to be public galleries on all four sides of this chamber. In fact only three sides contain functional balcony seats. The entablature above the columns on the north side was added for symetry as the fireplace arrangement did not allow balcony access above this area. The window shades feature olive wreaths, a symbol of victory and honor. The lithographic print of the Canova statue of Washington hangs to the right of the rostrums. This 1840 print features the only known interior view of the 1794-1796 State House.

Senate chamber

West Hall Committee Room
This room served as a joint committee room for the House and Senate. After the Civil War it briefly served as the "Third House (1868-1869)," the Capitol keeper's office (1893-1939), a snack room (1939-1961), and a post office. This room was restored to its original 1840 size and appearance between 1974 and 1976.

Third Floor of the Capitol

state library room

State Library Room
The State Library was located in this room from 1840 until 1888. The room was completed in the Gothic style in 1842, when the staircase, gallery, and shelves were added to hold the growing collection of books and papers. The collection began with more than 2,000 volumes and grew to nearly 40,000. It was open only to state officials until 1845, when policies were eased and the general public was admitted. By 1859 the State Library had outgrown its small, cramped room and was spilling its contents into other offices of the Capitol, including the building's closets. In 1888, the State Library moved to a larger building and is now housed in its third location since leaving the Capitol — the Archives and History/State Library Building on Jones Street. This room's 1856-1857 appearance has been re-created based on information contained in legislative papers and other records in the State Archives.

state geologist's office

State Geologist's Office
This room was occupied by the Supreme Court from 1840 to 1843, before the court relocated to the northeast suite on the first floor for convenience. Afterward, the State Geologist's Office — with its "Cabinet of Minerals" display — occupied the room from 1856 to 1865. Here the state geologist, Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, conducted a geological survey to determine the commercial and agricultural value of minerals and plants native to North Carolina. In glass cabinets, he displayed specimens from the Piedmont counties, including soil, seeds, rocks, and mineral samples. In 1858 a Gothic gallery was added to expand the collection, but it is likely that the upper shelves were actually used to store the overflow of books from the State Library. In April 1865 Union troops occupied Raleigh, and General Sherman's troops rifled the mineral collection. In 1866, the collection's remnants were donated to the University of North Carolina, and by 1868 the mineral cases were removed from the room. After the Civil War, the room housed the office of the superintendent of public instruction and was used for various legislative functions until 1961. The room's restoration to its 1858-1859 appearance is based on historical documentation and reflects its use by the geologist and legislative clerks, and as an additional reading room of the State Library.

Statues and Monuments on Union Square

Over the last century, numerous statues and monuments have been erected on the Square memorializing people and events in the history of North Carolina. The collection on Union Square consists of fourteen monuments, most of them bronze on stone bases. The following are brief descriptions of each:

Monument: Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation

Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation
This work honors the three presidents born in North Carolina: Andrew Jackson of Union County, seventh president of the United States (1829-1837); James Knox Polk of Mecklenberg County, eleventh president of the United States (1845-1849); and Andrew Johnson of Wake County, seventeenth president of the United States (1865-1869). Although North Carolina claims all three presidents as native sons, all were elected while residents of Tennessee.

Charles Duncan McIver 
Dr. McIver was a renowned promoter of education in North Carolina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is remembered as the founder and the first president of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

Zebulon Baird Vance
A native of Buncombe County, Vance was a noted "stump speaker" and popular political figure in the nineteenth century. He was a member of the North Carolina General Assembly and the United State House of Representatives. After serving as a Confederate officer, he became the 37th and the 43rd governor. He served as a United States senator from 1879 until his death in 1894.

George Washington
This bronze statue is one of six cast by William J. Hubbard of Richmond, Virginia, from a mold of Houdon's Washington which stands in the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. It was intended to replace the destroyed Canova statue. Unveiled on July 4, 1857, it was the first statue placed on the grounds.

Charles Brantley Aycock 
Known as the "education governor," Aycock was responsible for beginning the public school system existing today in North Carolina. It is said that one new school was opened for nearly every day of his term, 1901-1905.

Women of the Confederacy 
The Women of the Confederacy monument was a gift to the state by Confederate veteran Col. Ashley Horne, and was unveiled in June 1914. It was the wish of Colonel Horne to recognize the suffering and hardship faced by women during this tragic period in our nation's history.

Wildcat Division Memorial 
A simple stone marker honors North Carolina men of the U.S. Army's 81st Division (nicknamed "Wildcat Division" because of its ferocious and unyielding spirit) who took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France during World War I.

Worth Bagley
Born in Raleigh in 1874, Ensign Bagley was the first American naval officer killed in the Spanish-American War. Bagley, the executive officer of the torpedo ship U.S.S. Winslow, was killed May 11, 1898, by a shell from Spanish shore batteries at Cardenas Bay, Cuba.

Confederate Monument
This monument is in remembrance of North Carolina's Confederate dead (nearly one quarter of all Confederate deaths were from North Carolina). The three statues on the monument represent Confederate infantry, cavalry, and artillery soldiers. The inscription, "First at Bethel - Last at Appomatox," represents the forwardness and tenacity of North Carolina's soldiers during the Civil War.

Samuel A'Court Ashe
This tablet is a tribute to Captain Ashe who, as a captain in the Confederate Army, took part in the defense of Fort Wagner, S.C. He later served as a legislator, newspaper editor, and historian.

Henry Lawson Wyatt
Wyatt, from Edgecombe County, was the first Confederate soldier to die in battle in the Civil War. A private in the Confederate Army, he was killed at the Battle of Big Bethel in Virginia on June 10, 1861, as his brigade attacked Union troops.

North Carolina Veteran's Monument
This monument honors the veterans of the state who served in World Wars I and II and the Korean War. The base features scenes and lists major battles from each of the wars, and atop a granite shaft stands Lady Liberty holding a palm frond to symbolize peace and victory. The flags of each of the armed services fly at the rear of the monument.

Old Hickory Highway Marker
This granite marker commemorates North Carolina's soldiers of the U.S. Army's 30th "Old Hickory" Division, who fought and died to break the Hindenberg Line in France during World War I.

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial
Entitled "After the Firefight," this memorial honors the more than 206,000 men and women of the state who served in Vietnam. The monument depicts two soldiers carrying a wounded comrade to a nearby landing zone to await medical help. This monument is unique in that it is the first to be sculpted by a woman, and the first to depict an African American.