Missouri State Capitol

Coordinates: 38°34′45″N 92°10′22″W / 38.57917°N 92.17278°W / 38.57917; -92.17278
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Missouri State Capital Building and Grounds
AP of Missouri State Capitol Building.jpg
Missouri State Capitol showing the Missouri River in the background
Missouri State Capitol is located in Missouri
Missouri State Capitol
Missouri State Capitol is located in the United States
Missouri State Capitol
Interactive map showing the location of Missouri State Capitol
Location201 West Capitol Avenue, Jefferson City, Missouri
Coordinates38°34′45″N 92°10′22″W / 38.57917°N 92.17278°W / 38.57917; -92.17278
Area3 acres (1.2 ha)
Built1917; 106 years ago (1917)
ArchitectTracy and Swartwout
Architectural styleClassical Revival
NRHP reference No.69000096[1][2]
Added to NRHPJune 23, 1969; 53 years ago (1969-06-23)

The Missouri State Capitol is the home of the Missouri General Assembly and the executive branch of government of the U.S. state of Missouri. Located in Jefferson City at 201 West Capitol Avenue, it is the third capitol to be built in the city. (The previous two were demolished after they were damaged by fire.) The domed building, designed by the New York City architectural firm of Tracy and Swartwout, was completed in 1917.[3]

The capitol’s dome is the first thing travelers see when approaching Jefferson City from the north. In addition to the state Senate and House of Representatives, the capitol also contains offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and some administrative agencies.

It is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing property in the Missouri State Capitol Historic District.[2]

Architecture, paintings, and statuary[edit]

The capitol exterior[edit]

Statue of Thomas Jefferson, South Entrance

The exterior of the Missouri State Capitol is notable for its architectural features: the Baroque dome, loosely modeled after St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, rising 238 feet (73 m) above ground level, topped by sculptor Sherry Fry’s bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture; the eight 48-foot (15 m) columns on the south portico; the six 40-foot (12 m) columns on the north portico; the 30-foot (9 m)-wide grand staircase; and the bronze entrance doors, each 13 by 18 feet (4.0 m × 5.5 m)—at the time, the largest cast since the Roman era.[4]

The north facade is embellished by a frieze sculpted by Hermon Atkins MacNeil illustrating the history of Missouri, a theme continued on the south facade by the artist Alexander Stirling Calder. The figures in the pediment over the main entrance were sculpted by Adolph Alexander Weinman.

The capitol interior[edit]

The capitol’s first floor, home of the State Museum, is embellished with mural paintings and statuary. A prime attraction is a series of murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton in the House Lounge. The grand staircase is flanked by large heroic bronze statues of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and the third-floor rotunda is the site of the Hall of Famous Missourians, a group of bronze busts of prominent Missourians honored for their achievements and contributions to the state.

A whispering gallery high within the dome, and a small viewing platform on the dome's roof beneath the statue of Ceres, are areas normally not open to the public except for school tours and other special tours.

The capitol gardens[edit]

Statuary is a prominent feature of the capitol’s grounds: heroic allegorical bronze figures sculpted by Robert Aitken (representing Missouri's two great rivers—the Mississippi and the Missouri), and a 13-foot (4 m) tall statue of Thomas Jefferson made by James Earle Fraser dominate the south entrance. The Sciences and The Arts Fountains, each with four representative figures, adorn the south lawn.

Sculptor Karl Bitter’s bronze relief, depicting the signing of the Louisiana Purchase by Livingston, Monroe and Marbois, and Weinman’s Fountain of the Centaurs are features of the north grounds.


The capitol is Jefferson City's leading tourist attraction. It is a destination for school groups who arrive by busloads, particularly during General Assembly sessions. Students fill the galleries to watch the Senate and House of Representatives in action.

History of the structure[edit]

Missouri State Capitol and Fountain of the Centaurs (north side)

The present capitol, completed in 1917 and occupied the following year, is the third capitol in Jefferson City and the sixth in Missouri history. The first seat of state government was housed in the Mansion House, located at Third and Vine Streets in St. Louis and the second one was in the Missouri Hotel located at Main and Morgan Streets in St. Charles. St. Charles was designated as the temporary capital of the state in 1821 and remained the seat of government until 1826.

It was decided that the capitol should be located more in the center of the state and specifically that it should be located on the Missouri River within 40 miles (64 km) of the mouth of the Osage. A group was sent out to survey various locations. The present location on top of the bluffs in Jefferson City was chosen because it afforded the best view of the Missouri River of any place which they had seen within the limits prescribed by the Constitution.

The fourth capitol (the first in Jefferson City) was made out of brick, two stories tall, measured approximately 40 by 60 feet (12 m × 18 m), and took two years to complete. It was built for approximately $18,500 (equivalent to $478,497 in 2022). It was called the "Governor's House and State Capitol." This building burned in 1837. The site is now occupied by the present-day Missouri Governor's Mansion. It was designed by Stephen Hills and modeled on the first Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.[5] Hills also designed Academic Hall of the University of Missouri; the six Ionic columns that survived the 1892 fire that destroyed the building are now the campus's landmark columns at the David R. Francis Quadrangle.

The fifth capitol (which was at the current site) was completed in 1840 for approximately $350,000 (equivalent to $10,259,667 in 2022), with some claiming that there were bribes and kickbacks. This building also burned on February 5, 1911 when it was struck by lightning. This building was approximately 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) and by 1911, was far too small to meet the needs of the legislators. Missouri Senator William Warner said, "I have no tears to shed over the fact that the building has been destroyed as it was totally inadequate and not in keeping with the requirements of our great state."

The original budget called for a building to be constructed for $3 million (equivalent to $94.22 million in 2022), with an additional $500,000 (equivalent to $15,703,571 in 2022) allocated for site and furnishings. This was approved in general election by the public by a three-to-one margin, however, the state miscalculated on revenue projections, and ended up collecting $4,215,000 (equivalent to $132,381,107 in 2022). All of this money was eventually used for the entire project, which is one of the reasons why the sculptures and artwork are of such high caliber. Edwin William Stephens of Columbia served as chair of the Capitol Decoration Committee along with University of Missouri art professor John Pickard.

It was also decided that the architect would be selected from a design competition; names were redacted from the submissions so that there would be no local favoritism. A total of 69 architecture firms submitted for the competition, from which a short list of 11 was chosen. Tracy & Swarthout from New York was ultimately selected.

Missouri State Capitol

The building is symmetrical in plan, giving equal symbolic weight to both the House and Senate (though the interiors of the two chambers differ greatly). The style makes many historical references to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as well as to Greek and Roman temples; however, the typical column capital is a unique variation on the canonical Corinthian capital, replacing the acanthus leaves with local flora.

The stone for the exterior is a dense marble from Carthage, Missouri. Some of the finer details have eroded after 90 years of freeze/thaw cycles. The state has committed $30 Million[6] to study, restore, and prevent further deterioration. The building measures five stories high, 437 feet (133 m) long, 300 feet (90 m) wide in the center, and 200 feet (60 m) wide in the wings. The dome is 238 feet (73 m) high and the height of the wings is 88 feet (27 m). It includes 500,000 square feet (50,000 m2) of floor space.

Rotunda chandelier incident

In November 2006, the 9,000 lb (4,100 kg) dome chandelier, which had been lowered almost to the floor for maintenance, fell the remaining five feet.[7] The chandelier was damaged by the impact and by the ornamental chains that fell on it. It was sent to St. Louis for repairs. Nearly a full year later, the chandelier was returned and raised in the capitol. The upper lights were also restored, after they had been turned off for four decades due to light damage to the mural above. Created in 1918 by the Guth Lighting Company of St. Louis for a cost of $5,000 (equivalent to $97,279 in 2022), the chandelier cost $500,000 (equivalent to $725,817 in 2022) to be restored.[8]


See also[edit]


  • Hunter, Marie Nau, Missouri and Mississippi: Robert Ingersoll Aitken's Sculpture in Jefferson City, Missouri, Master's Thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1996
  • Kvaran & Lockley A Guide to the Architectural Sculpture of America, unpublished manuscript
  • Pickard, John, The Missouri State Capitol: Report of the Capitol Decoration Commission, 1917–1928, Capitol Decoration Committee, Jefferson City Missouri, 1928


  1. ^ "Missouri State Capitol Building and Grounds". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. June 23, 1969. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "Missouri State Capitol Building and Grounds" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. Missouri Department of Natural Resources. April 10, 1969. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  4. ^ "Missouri's State Capital". State Symbols of Missouri. Missouri Secretary of State. Retrieved January 2, 2006.
  5. ^ "Stephen Hills (1771-1844)". Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
  6. ^ "Majesty Restored – Capitol Restoration Project Reaches Completion – Missouri Senate — 2021".
  7. ^ "4,500-pound chandelier damaged in Missouri capitol mishap". Southeast Missourian. The Associated Press. November 12, 2006. Retrieved December 26, 2006.
  8. ^ Sarah D. Wire (November 7, 2007). "Capitol chandelier raised almost a year after falling". Missouri Digital News. State Capitol Bureau. Retrieved June 23, 2011.

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