We always recommend visiting state Capitol buildings as you travel around the country. But the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis is one you definitely don’t want to miss.
Opened in 1888, this is Indiana’s third statehouse building. The first Capitol was quite small and built when Indiana was part of the Northwest Territory and then the Indiana Territory. Then they built a second, larger one in the location of the current Capitol. But it was essentially wood and stucco. While it was really pretty, it didn’t last long since it started to deteriorate. After commissioning an architect and raising the funds, the current Capitol was constructed.
The building has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations over the years. They ended up putting cubicles all along the main hallways. At one point, on two of the floors, they removed the original chandeliers and put in fluorescent lighting! Thankfully, the state restored the building in the 1980s. It is gorgeous — the state did a really nice job with the restoration. The chandeliers on the fourth floor are still original, so from a historical standpoint, there’s a lot of neat stuff to see.
The Indiana State House is one of the largest state capitol buildings by size and one of only eight left that still has all three branches of government: executive, judicial, and legislative. Its overall impressive size was one of the first things that stood out to us. The second was the light. There are gorgeous skylights on both ends of the building. Big windows, skylights, the dome, and a glass ceiling were all designed to provide natural lighting to show off the marble and the architecture inside.
We recommend going on a guided tour while you’re at the Indiana Statehouse. One interesting thing we learned is why the House and Senate chambers are much smaller now than when the building was constructed. In the 1940s, the Legislature changed the House and Senate chambers significantly. Indiana has a part-time Legislature. The senators and representatives used to have a working desk in the Senate and House chambers. But then, when the telephone arrived, they all wanted a little more privacy and a little more peace and quiet! So, the state essentially built a box within the chambers. Around the outside of the boxes are the original chamber’s outer walls. The space in between, referred to as “the horseshoe,” now houses offices for legislators and staff.
We also learned there are about 200 fireplaces in the Capitol. Also, the Indiana Statehouse was designed with both electric and gas elements in the chandeliers.
There are so many interesting things to see in this Capitol, from the Supreme Court chamber that still has its original furniture to a 900-pound wooden table in the Governor’s Office with the state map and seal carved into it.
The uniqueness of every state Capitol always astonishes us. But the Indiana Statehouse really stands out. So if you get a chance, be sure to swing through Indianapolis and check out the Indiana Statehouse!
If you want to see more of the Indiana Statehouse, check out our YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/5QpD7BISj2Y