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Massachusetts State House

Coordinates: 42°21′29.4″N 71°3′49.3″W / 42.358167°N 71.063694°W / 42.358167; -71.063694
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts State House in Boston, November 2016
Location24 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°21′29.4″N 71°3′49.3″W / 42.358167°N 71.063694°W / 42.358167; -71.063694
Architectural styleFederal
Part ofBeacon Hill Historic District (ID66000130)
NRHP reference No.66000771
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLDecember 19, 1960[2]
Designated CPOctober 15, 1966

The Massachusetts State House, also known as the Massachusetts Statehouse or the New State House, is the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located in the Beacon Hill[3][4] neighborhood of Boston. The building houses the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) and the offices of the Governor of Massachusetts. The building, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, was completed in January 1798 at a cost of $133,333 (more than five times the budget), and has repeatedly been enlarged since. It is one of the oldest state capitols in current use. It is considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture and among Bulfinch's finest works, and was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance.[5]

Building and grounds

Stereograph image of the State House c. 1862, before wings were added to the building
The building c. 1895

Today the building officially functions and is maintained under the auspices of the Superintendent of the Bureau of the State House.[1].

The building is situated on 6.7 acres (2.7 ha) of land on top of Beacon Hill in Boston, opposite the Boston Common on Beacon Street. It was built on land once owned by John Hancock, Massachusetts's first elected governor.[6] The Masonic cornerstone ceremony took place on July 4, 1795, with Paul Revere, then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, presiding.[7]

Before the current State House was completed in 1798, Massachusetts's government house was the Old State House on what is now Washington Street. For the building's design, architect Charles Bulfinch made use of two existing buildings in London: William Chambers's Somerset House,[8] and James Wyatt's Pantheon.[9]

After Maine separated from Massachusetts and became an independent state in 1820, Charles Bulfinch designed Maine's capitol building with architectural influence of the Massachusetts Capitol building with a simplified Greek Revival influence.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth completed a major expansion of the original building in 1895.[10] The architect for the annex was Bostonian Charles Brigham.

In 1917, the east and west wings, designed by architects Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, were completed.[6]

In July 2016, Governor Charlie Baker proposed to the state legislature to sell 300 square feet (28 m2) of permanent easement on the west side of the State House lawn to a neighboring condominium. The land in question was once pasture owned by John Hancock and the easement would allow for the addition of au pair units.[11] Through legislation passed by the legislature the land surrounding the state house is considered "open space".[2]



The original wood dome, which leaked, was covered with copper in 1802 by Paul Revere's Revere Copper Company. Revere was the first American to roll copper successfully into sheets (for copper sheathing) in a commercially viable manner.

The dome was first painted gray and then light yellow before being gilded with gold leaf in 1874. During World War II, the dome was painted gray once again, to prevent reflection during blackouts and to protect the city and building from bombing attacks.[12] The dome was re-gilded in 1969, at a cost of $36,000. [13] Then, in July 1997, the dome was once again re-gilded, in 23k gold. The estimated cost this time was $1.5 million. [14]

The dome is topped with a gilded, wooden pine cone, symbolizing both the importance of Boston's lumber industry during early colonial times and of the state of Maine, which was a district of the Commonwealth when the Bulfinch section of the building was completed.[12]



In front of the building is an equestrian statue of General Joseph Hooker. Other statues in front of the building include Daniel Webster, educator Horace Mann, and former US President John F. Kennedy. The statues of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer are located on the lawns below the east and west wings. Inside the building is a statue of William Francis Bartlett, an officer in the Civil War.

Building interior


The original red-brick Bulfinch building contains the Governor's offices (on the west end) with the Massachusetts Senate occupying the former House of Representatives Chamber under the dome. The Massachusetts House of Representatives occupies a chamber on the west side of the Brigham addition. Hanging over this chamber is the "Sacred Cod", which was given to the House of Representatives in 1784 by a Boston merchant. The Sacred Cod symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry to the early Massachusetts economy.[15]

The House Chamber is decorated with murals by Albert Herter,[16] father of Massachusetts Gov. Christian Herter. Murals on the second floor under the dome were painted by artist Edward Brodney.[17] Brodney won a competition to paint the first mural in a contest sponsored by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. It is entitled "Columbia Knighting Her World War Disabled". Brodney could not afford to pay models, and friends and family posed. The model for Columbia was Brodney's sister Norma Brodney Cohen, and the model for the soldier on one knee in the foreground was his brother Fred Brodney.[18] In 1938, he painted a second mural under the dome called "World War Mothers". The models were again primarily friends and family members, with sister Norma sitting beside their mother Sarah Brodney.[19] The New York Times notes that the murals are relatively rare examples of military art with women as their subjects.

A staircase in front of the Bulfinch building leads from Beacon Street to Doric Hall inside the building. The large main doors inside Doric Hall are only opened on three occasions:[20]

  1. When the President of the United States or a foreign head of state visits.
  2. When the Governor exits the building on his or her last day in office. The Governor descends the staircase, crosses Beacon Street, and enters Boston Common, symbolically rejoining the people of Massachusetts as a private citizen.
  3. When a regimental flag is returned from battle. Since the regimental flags now return to Washington, D.C., this has not been done since the Vietnam War.

The Samuel Adams and Paul Revere time capsule is a metal box located in a cornerstone of the State House, placed there in the late 18th century and rediscovered in 2014. The contents include coins, newspaper clippings and other historical artifacts.



Constitutional Officers


The State House contains the primary offices of all the commonwealth's constitutional officers with exception of the Attorney General, who is based at the nearby McCormack Building.



The majority of State House office space is given over to the Legislature. Every member of the House and Senate is assigned an office. Large third-floor suites are assigned to the House Speaker[26] (Room 356) and Senate President[27] (Room 332). Other offices include the House and Senate clerks, House and Senate counsel, and Legislative Information Services.



One corridor of the building's fourth floor is a sort of Newspaper Row, anchored by the large Press Gallery suite where reporters from a range of publications maintain desks. The central Press Gallery room was given to use of reporters by the Legislature in 1909.[28] The Massachusetts State House Press Association, established in 1909, governs these shared workspaces.[29] Some individual news outlets have separate offices.

Veterans' Organizations


A suite of rooms on the fifth floor is home to the Massachusetts headquarters of several veterans' groups, including the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Italian American War Veterans of the United States, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Korean War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Persian Gulf Era Veterans, Polish Legion of American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.[31][32]

"Hub of the Solar System" nickname


One of Boston's most enduring nicknames, "The Hub of the Universe",[33] stems from a remark by Oliver Wendell Holmes from his 1858 book The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table in which he mentions the State House:[34] "A jaunty-looking person ... said there was one more wise man's saying that he had heard; it was about our place—but he didn't know who said it. ... Boston State-House is the Hub of the Solar System. You couldn't pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar".[35]


See also





  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 15, 2006.
  2. ^ "Massachusetts Statehouse". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2008.
  3. ^ "Neighborhoods: Downtown". City of Boston. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  4. ^ "Electoral Maps". Boston Redevelopment Authority. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  5. ^ "NHL nomination for Massachusetts State House". National Park Service. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "A Tour of the Grounds of the Massachusetts State House" (PDF). Massachusetts Secretary of State. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  7. ^ Onion, Rebecca (January 7, 2015). "So, What Was In That Boston Time Capsule?". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved October 2, 2023.
  8. ^ Shand-Tucci, Douglass (1999). Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800–2000. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-1558492011.
  9. ^ Whiffen, Marcus; Koeper, Frederick (1983). American Architecture, 1607–1976. MIT Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0262730693. Retrieved April 12, 2019..
  10. ^ "Massachusetts Facts". Secretary of the Commonwealth. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  11. ^ Phillips, Frank (July 21, 2016). "Baker wants to sell part of State House lawn". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Massachusetts State House". The Freedom Trail. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  13. ^ Don Aucoin. "Dome in Decline." Boston Globe, February 15, 1997, pp. A1, A9.
  14. ^ "Statehouse Dome Undergoes Golden Re-gilding." North Adams (Mass.) Transcript, July 22, 1997, p. B 8.
  15. ^ Massachusetts State House, via cityofboston.gov
  16. ^ "House Chamber Artifact List". malegislature.gov. Massachusetts Legislature. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  17. ^ Martin, Douglas (August 19, 2002). "Edward Brodney, 92, Who Painted War Scenes". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2008.
  18. ^ Bruckman, Amy S. (2022). Should You Believe Wikipedia? (PDF). Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press. p. 83. ISBN 9781108490320. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  19. ^ "Boston Women's Heritage Trail". Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  20. ^ "Massachusetts Facts Part 3, The State House, Doric Hall". Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  21. ^ "Citizen's Guide to State Services". sec.state.ma.us. Secretary William Francis Galvin. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  22. ^ "Citizen's Guide to State Services". sec.state.ma.us. Secretary William Francis Galvin. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  23. ^ "Citizen's Guide to State Services". sec.state.ma.us. Secretary William Francis Galvin. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  24. ^ "Citizen's Guide to State Services". sec.state.ma.us. Secretary William Francis Galvin. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  25. ^ "Citizen's Guide to State Services". sec.state.ma.us. Secretary William Francis Galvin. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  26. ^ "Office of the Speaker of the House Panorama". malegislature.gov. Massachusetts Legislature. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  27. ^ "Office of the Senate President Panorama". malegislature.gov. Massachusetts Legislature. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Resolve Relative To Quarters In The State House Assigned To Members Of The Press (Resolve 44). Massachusetts General Court. 1909.
  29. ^ "About Us". mastatehousepress.wixsite.com/mastatehousepress. Massachusetts State House Press Association. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  30. ^ "Members". mastatehousepress.wixsite.com/mastatehousepress. Massachusetts State House Press Association. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  31. ^ "Service Organizations for All Veterans". medfordma.org. City of Medford. August 13, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  32. ^ "Veteran Organizations" (PDF). lynnma.gov. City of Lynn. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  33. ^ "Boston's nicknames: Beantown, Hub, the Walking City". The Boston Globe. August 10, 2006.
  34. ^ The Nuttall Encyclopædia by P. Austin Nuttall. May 1, 2004. Retrieved March 15, 2021 – via Project Gutenberg.
  35. ^ Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1889) [1858]. The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. Houghton, Mifflin and Company. p. 172.


Further reading

Preceded by Locations along Boston's Freedom Trail
Massachusetts State House
Succeeded by