You now stand at the Indiana State House, the seat of Indiana government. When Indiana first became a state in 1816, the capitol was located in southern Indiana in the city of Corydon. In 1824, the capitol was relocated to Indianapolis.
Once the capitol moved to Indianapolis, government activities operated out of rooms in the Marion County Courthouse, which the State rented. In 1831, the General Assembly had authorized the construction of a state capitol building. A competition was held and a Greek Revival entry by Town and Davis, architects from New York, won. The first capitol building was constructed of brick, covered by stucco, and topped with a zinc roof, and it was completed in 1835. This capitol building saw continuous use for the next few decades, but, by the end of the Civil War, it had begun to deteriorate. The limestone foundation was failing and the stucco was flaking off. Another factor not in its favor was that Greek Revival was no longer popular.
In 1867, the ceiling in the Representative Hall collapsed, and the building was later condemned and demolished. The General Assembly created a commission in 1877 to supervise the construction of a new capitol building. Another competition was held to select a design. Unlike the first design, this one came from an Indiana architect. Edwin May, of Indianapolis, proposed a Greek cross shaped building complete with a centralized dome and rotunda. Italian Renaissance in style, the building utilized Indiana materials whenever possible. When May died in 1880, another Indianapolis architect, Adolph Scherrer, was hired to complete the project. Progress was slow during the 1880s for a variety of reasons, including the difficulties of moving large pieces of limestone to be incorporated into the building. Construction on the capitol building came at an overall cost of $1.9 million dollars. Although not completed until 1888, the 1887 legislative session was held in the building you see now: the Indiana Statehouse.
By 1917, space was becoming as issue. Some of the stable areas in the basement were converted into office space. In 1919, the State Museum vacated its space on the third floor and moved to the basement. Other renovations included reworking the original gas and electric chandeliers and walls throughout the building were painted in new, brighter colors. Space issues continued into the 1930s. In 1934, the Indiana State Library, the Indiana Historical Bureau, and the Indiana Historical Society moved into a new building northwest of the State House.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the desire to appear cutting-edge made its way to the Capitol. Glass doors replaced some of the original oak doors, fluorescent fixtures replaced wall sconces. Granite columns, wooden balconies, and ornamental plaster were removed in favor of modernization. In 1975, the Department of Natural Resources nominated the Capitol to the National Register of Historic Places.
Following the nomination, a series of renovations began. In 1978, the dome was reclad in copper, and, in 1984, the art glass inner dome suspended over the rotunda was cleaned and repaired. 1988 brought about the largest restoration effort for the Statehouse yet. Both the interior and exterior stonework was cleaned. The marble and granite columns, pilasters, and capitals were cleaned and polished as well. Layers of paint were removed to reveal original stenciling. Replicas of the original oak doors, moldings, light fixtures and other decorative features were re-created.
The capitol building houses the Indiana Legislature as well as the state supreme court. Thousands of people have traveled to Indianapolis since 1888 to attend gubernatorial inaugurations and speeches, testify at legislative committee meetings, attend Supreme Court cases, and demonstrate in support or protest of controversial laws and measures passed at the Statehouse.
As you walk the grounds of the capitol, think about the significance of the many social and political events that have taken place here. Also, take note of the large collection of monuments that you see. If you tour the inside of the building, you can also see the many busts that adorn the alcoves that surround the rotunda. These include William English (1822-1896), a state House representative and later U.S. House representative, as well as Julia Carson (1938-2007), one of the first African American women to serve in the State Senate. The Indiana Statehouse has seen many significant social and political events and decisions. In 1865, President Lincoln’s body lay in state at the Statehouse, and in recent years, the capitol has been the site of political protests and rallies surrounding issues such as public education, same sex marriage, gun laws, women’s rights, and workers’ rights.
The Statehouse also provides opportunities for people to witness the legislative process. The Legislative Information Center, which “provides legislative information to the public, state and local government, and the news media,” is located on the main floor of the building. Here, computer terminals make information about the current status of legislation available to the public. Similarly, the House and Senate Galleries, both located on the fourth floor, allow the public to view the activity in the House and Senate when the legislature is in session. The Indiana Statehouse stands as a symbol of pathways of statewide and civic political discourse.