California State Capitol

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California State Capitol
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Location within Sacramento, California
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California State Capitol (California)
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California State Capitol (the United States)
General information
TypeGovernment offices
Location Capitol Mall
Sacramento, California
United States
Coordinates 38°34′36″N121°29′37″W / 38.57667°N 121.49361°W / 38.57667; -121.49361 Coordinates: 38°34′36″N121°29′37″W / 38.57667°N 121.49361°W / 38.57667; -121.49361
Construction started1860
OwnerState of California
ManagementState of California
Antenna spire75.3 m (247 ft)
Roof64 m (210 ft)
Technical details
Floor countWest wing: 4; East Annex: 6
Design and construction
Architect(s)M. Frederic Butler, Reuben Clark, Gordon Parker Cummings
California State Capitol
Architectural style Neoclassical Renaissance Revival (interior)
NRHP reference No. 73000427 [1]
CHISL No.872
Added to NRHPApril 3, 1973
[2] [3] [4]

The California State Capitol is the seat of the California state government, located in Sacramento, the state capital of California. The building houses the chambers of the California State Legislature, made up of the Assembly and the Senate, along with the office of the governor of California. The Neoclassical structure, designed by Reuben S. Clark, was completed between 1861 and 1874. Located at the west end of Capitol Park and the east end of the Capitol Mall, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The California State Capitol Museum is housed on the grounds of the capitol.



The California Capitol in 1890. An illustrated history of Sacramento County, California - containing a history of Sacramento County from the earliest period of its occupancy to the present time, together with glimpses of its (14596171470).jpg
The California Capitol in 1890.

The structure was completed between 1860 and 1874, designed by architect Reuben S. Clark of Clark & Kenitzer, one of San Francisco's oldest architectural firms, founded in 1854. [5] [6] Between 1949 and 1952, the Capitol's apse was demolished to make way for the building's expansion with the construction of the East Annex. [7] The offices of the governor of California are housed in the East Annex. The Capitol and grounds were listed on the office of the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, [1] and listed as a California Historical Landmark in 1974, with a re-dedication on January 9, 1982, to commemorate the close of the bicentennial restoration project. [8] [9] The building underwent a major renovation known as the California State Capitol Restoration, from 1975 until 1982, involving an architectural restoration and structural reconstruction for earthquake safety. Although not generally considered earthquake country, Sacramento was hit by two earthquakes within days of each other in 1892 which damaged the Capitol. [10]

In 2012, many protesters stormed the building and were arrested. [11]

Construction and design

The Capitol was designed in a Neoclassical style by prominent architect Reuben S. Clark in 1860. Sacramento capitol (23024886910).jpg
The Capitol was designed in a Neoclassical style by prominent architect Reuben S. Clark in 1860.


The building is based on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The west facade ends in projecting bays, and a portico projects from the center of the building. At the base of the portico, seven granite archways brace and support the porch above. Eight fluted Corinthian columns line the portico. A cornice supports the pediment above depicting Minerva surrounded by Education, Justice, Industry and Mining.

Above the flat roof with balustrade are two drums supporting a dome. The first drum consists of a colonnade of Corinthian columns; the second, Corinthian pilasters. Large arched windows line the drum walls. The dome is 64 m (210 ft) high, and supports a lantern with a smaller dome capped with a gold-leafed orbed finial.


The California Senate chamber seats its forty members in a large chamber room decorated in red, which is a reference to the British House of Lords (also the upper house of a bicameral legislature). The chamber is entered through a second-floor corridor. From the coffered ceiling hangs an electric reproduction of the original gas chandelier. A hand-carved dais caps off a recessed bay framed by Corinthian columns.

The Latin phrase "Senatoris est civitatis libertatem tueri" ("It is the duty of the Senator to guard the civil liberties of the Commonwealth") lines the cornice. A portrait of George Washington by Jane Stuart, the daughter of Gilbert Stuart, is on the wall above. The State Seal hangs above. Statues of the Roman goddess of wisdom Minerva once overlooked both chambers. Today, Minerva, sculpted by Michael H. Casey, appears only in the senate chambers.

The Capitol lies at the east end of the Capitol Mall. Californian Legislature from Capitol Mall.jpg
The Capitol lies at the east end of the Capitol Mall.

Gilded Corinthian columns support the gallery above, and dark red curtains that can be drawn for privacy are tied back along the columns. High arched windows run along the bottom below rectangular pane windows. Behind the rostrum, there are two chairs with red velvet cushions, reserved for the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the assembly, but they are never used.

The California Assembly chamber is located at the opposite end of the building. Its green tones are based on those of the British House of Commons, the lower house. The dais rests along a wall shaped like an "E", with the central projection housing the rostrum. Along the cornice is the Assembly motto, in Latin: Legislatorum est justas leges condere ("It is the duty of legislators to establish just laws"). [12]

California Capitol Museum

View of the dome from Capitol Park. State capitol photo by Sally.jpg
View of the dome from Capitol Park.

The California State Capitol Museum is a museum housed within the capitol and on the grounds of Capitol Park, run by California State Parks. The Capitol Museum includes the historic offices of the governor and legislature.

Capitol Park

The capitol's grounds are known as Capitol Park, an area of 10 undivided city blocks running from 10th to 16th and from L to N Streets. The entire Capitol Park area is included in the National Register historic district listing. [1] [13] Capitol Park contains numerous monuments and memorials, including the California Firefighters Memorial and El Soldado Monument.

See also

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  2. "Emporis building ID 123286". Emporis . Archived from the original on March 7, 2016.
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  5. California Capitol Museum - Architecture & History: California State Capitol History Part I
  6. University of Washington: Pacific Coast Architecture Database - Clark and Kenitzer
  7. California Capitol Museum - Architecture and History: Part III
  8. "California State Capitol". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  9. "California Landmark 872: State Capitol Complex in Sacramento, California". Noehill. 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  10. "More Terrestrial Chills  Sacramento Shivers Again, But Not Damaged to Any Extent". The Sacramento Union . April 22, 1892. p. 3. "The Capitol was given a lively shaking, in the course of which a small portion of one of the plaster statuettes tumbled off and the Assembly chamber ceiling cracked. Of course, there was a general exodus of State officials and clerks, too."
  11. "Calif. Troopers arrest dozens in state Capitol". 6 March 2012.
  12. Newton, Jim (2006). Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made. New York: Riverhead Books. p. 166. ISBN   9781594482700 . Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  13. Welts, Allen W. (August 15, 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: California State Capitol". National Park Service . Retrieved May 2, 2018. With accompanying six photos from 1971–73