Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Webpage: State Capitol
General Description: Constructed from 1895-1904, the Rhode Island State House boasts the third largest self supporting marble dome in the world. On top of the dome is a gold covered bronze statue that is 11 feet tall of the Independent Man, originally named “Hope”. The Independent Man represents the freedom and independence alluding to the independent spirit of Roger Williams. In the center of the State House is the rotunda that looks all the way up to the dome with the chambers for the Senate and House of Representatives to the east and west wings, respectively. Along with numerous offices, the State House also houses the State Library, the State Room, and a small museum that houses the original Royal Charter of 1663 granted by King Charles II of England. This Charter guaranteed Rhode Island settlers freedom of religion and the freedom to govern themselves.
1) This is a beautiful structure with many interesting architectural features. First, the huge self-supporting dome is very impressive (especially looking up from inside). Second, is the statue of Independent Man 278 feet up in the air atop the dome. Finally, I was impressed with the balcony that overlooks the public meeting area in front of the State House. Although I doubt it is still used today, I can just envision the Governor addressing the citizens from this balcony.
2) Just within the front doors are two cannon with historical significance. I especially liked the Civil War cannon that was used by the Rhode Island regiments at Gettysburg. It was hit by shrapnel during the battle which took out a chip from the end of the cannon and slightly warped the end. When they tried to reload the cannon, the cannon ball became stuck and is still stuck in the end of the cannon!
3) The State Library is very impressive, being two floors of books accessible from a balcony that goes all the way around the center of the room.
4) Along the walls there are portraits of all the Governor’s of Rhode Island extending back to the 1600s when it was still a colony. By reading the plaques for each painting you can learn a lot about the history of the state.
5) We took a quick peak into the Senate and House Chambers, which were quite ornate.
5) They do give free tours of the State House, which we found out about after we had already explored it by ourselves. However, once we found the small museum we were impressed with the historical documents they have on display. The most noteworthy is the original charter for the colony which is locked up in a steel vault at night. Unfortunately, the original was currently being restored so we only got to see a very good copy of it. Rhode Island was the last state to pass a State Constitution in 1843 since they believed this Charter was sufficient. We also learned that Rhode Island came very close to not joining the United States by ratifying the US Constitution. They demanded immediate amendments be passed before ratifying, which are the Bill of Rights, and even then ratification passed by only one vote.