Vermont State House

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Vermont State House
Vermont State House in Montpelier.jpg
The State House in June 2012
USA Vermont location map.svg
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Location Montpelier, Vermont, U.S.
Coordinates 44°15′44″N72°34′51″W / 44.26222°N 72.58083°W / 44.26222; -72.58083 Coordinates: 44°15′44″N72°34′51″W / 44.26222°N 72.58083°W / 44.26222; -72.58083
ArchitectAmmi Burnham Young
Thomas Silloway
Architectural styleGreek Revival
NRHP reference # 70000739 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 30, 1970
Designated NHLDecember 30, 1970 [2]

The Vermont State House, located in Montpelier, is the state capitol of the U.S. state of Vermont. It is the seat of the Vermont General Assembly. The current Greek Revival structure is the third building on the same site to be used as the State House. Designed by Thomas Silloway in 1857 and 1858, it was occupied in 1859.

Montpelier, Vermont Capital of Vermont, United States

Montpelier is the capital city of the U.S. state of Vermont and the seat of Washington County. As the site of Vermont's state government, it is the least populous state capital in the United States. The population was 7,855 at the 2010 Census. However, the daytime population grows to about 21,000, due to the large number of jobs within city limits. The Vermont College of Fine Arts and New England Culinary Institute are located in the municipality. It was named after Montpellier, a city in the south of France.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Vermont U.S. state in the United States

Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders the U.S. states of Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. Vermont is the second-smallest by population and the sixth-smallest by area of the 50 U.S. states. The state capital is Montpelier, the least populous state capital in the United States. The most populous city, Burlington, is the least populous city to be the most populous city in a state. As of 2019, Vermont was the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. In crime statistics, it was ranked since 2016 as the safest state in the country.


A careful restoration of the Vermont State House began in the early 1980s led by curator David Schütz and the Friends of the Vermont State House, a citizens' advisory committee. The general style of the building is Neoclassical and Greek Revival and is furnished in American Empire, Renaissance Revival, and Rococo Revival styles. Some rooms have been restored to represent latter-19th-century styles including the "Aesthetic Movement" style.

The Friends of the Vermont State House is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Vermont's historic State House, the seat of the U.S. state of Vermont's legislative branch of government. The organization works closely with the Vermont General Assembly, the Curator of State Buildings, the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, and other government officials to maintain the historic and symbolic dignity of the building. Membership is open to all, and the organization is self-governing.

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, the Vitruvian principles, and the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Greek Revival architecture architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries

The Greek Revival was an architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, predominantly in Northern Europe and the United States. It revived the style of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the Greek temple, with varying degrees of thoroughness and consistency. A product of Hellenism, it may be looked upon as the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture, which had for long mainly drawn from Roman architecture. The term was first used by Charles Robert Cockerell in a lecture he gave as Professor of Architecture to the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 1842.

Since 1994, Buildings and General Services Architect, Tricia Harper has been responsible for design and construction for the restoration and renovation project of the building and its grounds.

The Vermont State House is located on State Street on the western edge of downtown Montpelier, a block north of the Winooski River. Set against a wooded hillside (which was open pasture land earlier during much of its history), the building and its distinctive gold leaf dome are easily visible while approaching Montpelier, the smallest city to serve as capital of a U.S. state.

Winooski River river in the United States of America

The Winooski River is a tributary of Lake Champlain, approximately 90 miles (145 km) long, in the northern half of Vermont. Although not Vermont's longest river, it is one of the state's most significant, forming a major valley way from Lake Champlain through the Green Mountains towards the Connecticut River valley.

Gold leaf art medium

Gold leaf is gold that has been hammered into thin sheets by goldbeating and is often used for gilding. Gold leaf is available in a wide variety of karats and shades. The most commonly used gold is 22-karat yellow gold.

History and architecture

Exterior facade and dome

The Doric portico of the Vermont State House dates to Ammi B. Young's second 1833 state house. Vermont State House front.jpg
The Doric portico of the Vermont State House dates to Ammi B. Young's second 1833 state house.

The current structure was designed by architect Thomas Silloway (1828–1910) amplifying the design of an earlier structure designed by Ammi B. Young, (1798–1874) later supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury. The first State House built in 1808 by Sylvanus Baldwin was replaced by the current Vermont Supreme Court Building [3] completed in 1918. [4]

Thomas Silloway American architect

Thomas William Silloway was an American architect, known for building over 400 church buildings in the eastern United States.

Ammi B. Young American architect

Ammi Burnham Young was a 19th-century American architect whose commissions transitioned from the Greek Revival to the Neo-Renaissance styles. His design of the second Vermont State House brought him fame and success, which eventually led him to become the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. As federal architect, he was responsible for creating across the United States numerous custom houses, post offices, courthouses and hospitals, many of which are today on the National Register. His traditional architectural forms lent a sense of grandeur and permanence to the new country's institutions and communities. Young pioneered the use of iron in construction.

The prior edifice, known as the "Second State House", was constructed on the same site between 1833 and 1838. Young's structure was of a more reserved Greek Revival design based upon the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Gray Barre granite is used for the two-story cruciform design with a Doric portico and a low saucer dome echoing William Thornton's earliest design for the United States Capitol. Young's structure was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in January 1857. Silloway was able to salvage the Doric portico, as well as portions of the granite walls. Silloway added an additional bay of windows on each side of the central portico and increased the height of the dome (copper on a wood substructure) to its current level. This may have been done to imitate the increased height of the new Capitol dome in Washington designed by Thomas U. Walter which was being constructed during the same time.

Temple of Hephaestus ancient Greek temple

The Temple of Hephaestus or Hephaisteion or earlier as the Theseion, is a well-preserved Greek temple; it remains standing largely as built. It is a Doric peripteral temple, and is located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George Akamates. The building's condition has been maintained due to its history of varied use.

Barre (town), Vermont Town in Vermont, United States

Barre is a town in Washington County, Vermont, United States. The population was 7,924 at the 2010 census. Popularly referred to as "Barre Town", the town almost completely surrounds "Barre City", which is a separate municipality.

Granite A common type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock with granular structure

Granite is a common type of felsic intrusive igneous rock that is granular and phaneritic in texture. Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. The word "granite" comes from the Latin granum, a grain, in reference to the coarse-grained structure of such a holocrystalline rock. Strictly speaking, granite is an igneous rock with between 20% and 60% quartz by volume, and at least 35% of the total feldspar consisting of alkali feldspar, although commonly the term "granite" is used to refer to a wider range of coarse-grained igneous rocks containing quartz and feldspar.

The bust of Abraham Lincoln within the Hall of Inscriptions was a study by Larkin Goldsmith Mead for a larger statue installed at the Lincoln Tomb. Honest Abe was here... (17513238616).jpg
The bust of Abraham Lincoln within the Hall of Inscriptions was a study by Larkin Goldsmith Mead for a larger statue installed at the Lincoln Tomb.

The dome and roofs were originally painted a dark terracotta red to suggest Tuscan tile. The dome was not gilded until the early 20th century, when many states did so as a part of the Colonial Revival style. The dome is topped by a statue named Agriculture, a representation of Ceres, an ancient Roman goddess of agriculture. The original statue was carved by Vermont artist Larkin Goldsmith Mead, who also carved the large bust of Lincoln in the Hall of Inscriptions on the State House's ground floor. The current statue is a replacement, and something of a piece of folk art, based on Mead's original. It was carved in 1938 by then 87-year-old Dwight Dwinell, Sergeant-at-Arms (in Vermont this official position is similar in nature to the White House Chief Usher).

Colonial Revival architecture

Colonial Revival architecture was and is a nationalistic design movement in the United States and Canada; it seeks to revive elements of architectural style, garden design, and interior design of American colonial architecture.

Ceres (mythology) ancient Roman goddess

In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome's so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as "the Greek rites of Ceres". Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales. She was also honoured in the May lustratio of the fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.

Religion in ancient Rome the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome

Religion in Ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion of the city of Rome that the Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule, in so far as they became widely followed in Rome and Italy. The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious, and attributed their success as a world power to their collective piety (pietas) in maintaining good relations with the gods. The Romans are known for the great number of deities they honored, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists.

The Doric portico, the main ceremonial entrance, houses a granite statue of Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen was a founder of Vermont and commander of the Green Mountain Boys, an early Vermont military infantry active during the Vermont Republic, (1777–1791). The statue was carved by Aristide Piccini in 1941, to replace the original marble version carved by Larkin Goldsmith Mead in 1858. The architect Stanford White (1853–1906) considered Silloway's Vermont State House to be the finest example of the Greek Revival style in the United States.

Interiors, furnishings, and decorative arts

In the well of Representatives Hall, with the rescued portrait of George Washington above the speaker's chair VTStateHouse Chamber.jpg
In the well of Representatives Hall, with the rescued portrait of George Washington above the speaker's chair

The State House contains two primary floors accessible by a pair of circular stairways opening into the ground-floor Cross Hall. An elevator is also available. The Entrance Hall is of the Greek Ionic order and flanked by portraits of Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur, both native to Vermont. The tall double front doors were painted and then coated with a metallic powder to appear as bronze in 1859. The Entrance Hall contains a portrait of Montpelier native Admiral George Dewey on the bridge of his flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay. The Vermont State House does not have a rotunda, the dome being located almost directly above the ceiling of Representatives Hall on the second floor. The principal public room is the Hall of Inscriptions, a Doric pilastered corridor featuring eight monumental marble tablets incised with quotations about the distinct nature of Vermont's culture and heritage. The tablets quote the Vermont Constitution, Ethan Allen, Calvin Coolidge, George Aiken, Warren Austin, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher among others. Each tablet features fourteen gilded stars, representing Vermont's fourteen counties, the state's fourteen years as an independent republic, and being the fourteenth state to join the federal Union. The four corners of each tablet feature a sheath of grain, a detail found in the Great Seal of Vermont, designed by Ira Allen.

The ceremonial office of the Governor of Vermont, used during legislative sessions for meetings and bill-signings, is located in the second-floor west wing of the building. The Executive Chamber has been restored to its 1859 appearance with pediment hooded windows supported by Italianate-style brackets, and gilded Rococo Revival drapery cornices. A Wilton style carpet colored crimson, azure blue and gold was rewoven as part of the restoration. The Vermont Governor's working office and private apartments are located nearby at The Pavilion, built in Second Empire style and located just east of the Vermont Supreme Court. Portraits of Vermont governors (including Howard Dean, who is shown in an idiosyncratic pose in a canoe amid a natural setting) are displayed through the first and second floors of the State House, the corridors of which are a sort of state portrait gallery, commemorating famous Vermonters.

The two chambers of the Vermont General Assembly are on the second floor. While both chambers have overhead visitors' galleries accessible on a third-floor mezzanine, visitors are welcome to quietly enter and sit in the main floor of the chambers. Contrary to the tradition of decorating the upper house in red and the lower house in green, established by the House of Lords and House of Commons in the United Kingdom, Vermont reserves the state colors of green and gold for its upper house, the Vermont Senate. Red and gold is used for the Vermont House of Representatives which meets in Representatives Hall. A large plaster ceiling medallion in the center of the chamber in the form of a lotus with a center rosette of acanthus leaves hold a two-tiered electrified gasolier manufactured in Philadelphia by Cornelius and Baker. Each petal of the rosette weighs approximately 500 pounds. Brilliant axminster carpets have been recreated for both chambers based on old stereoscope views and small scraps found in an attic. On either side of the rostrum in Representatives Hall, are a series of connected elliptical-backed seats designed to fill the north wall of the chamber. The seats are upholstered and tufted in crimson and are used to seat members of the Vermont Senate during joint sessions of the General Assembly. The seats also accommodate the justices of the State's supreme court for the Governor's State of the State address and the inauguration of governors. Citizens frequently occupy these seats when the House is in separate session, or for large public hearings.

The state coat-of-arms is illustrated in one of two stained glass skylights In the Cedar Creek Room, a reception room in the west wing. Stained glass skylight in the Cedar Creek Room in the Vermont State House.jpg
The state coat-of-arms is illustrated in one of two stained glass skylights In the Cedar Creek Room, a reception room in the west wing.

The second floor of the west wing includes the Cedar Creek Room, a large reception room featuring a mural painted by Julian Scott in 1874. The mural nearly fills the south wall and depicts the Battle of Cedar Creek during the American Civil War. The painting highlights the contributions of Vermont troops in the battle. The room is illuminated by two stained glass skylights in the deeply coffered ceiling dating to 1859 when the room housed the State Library. At some time the skylight was broken, and the opening closed. In 1970, while doing renovation work, workers discovered the broken pieces neatly stacked in the attic above the room. The pieces were reassembled, conserved, and reinstalled during the mid-1980s. One window (shown at left) depicts the obverse of the coat of arms of Vermont, which is a more painterly armorial representation of the Great Seal of Vermont (reserved solely for embossing documents), the arms are topped by the head of a buck white-tailed deer and circled by branches of Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus). Pine badges were worn as an expression of Vermont identity by citizens while the state was a republic, and again during the American Civil War by Vermont's military regiments. The other skylight features the rarely seen reverse of the state coat of arms, a female personification of the state referred to as "Vermontannia." The wall stencils in the Cedar Creek Room are the original patterns, recreated based upon old photographs, and the colors were matched by paint analysis. It is seated among sheaths of corn and wheat, representing Vermont's agricultural history. This room is restored to its 1888 appearance when the room was converted from the State Library to use as a governor's reception room. The walls, and 20-foot ceilings are polychrome painted in a complex palette of tertiary colors: burnished copper, russet, salmon, and a deep blue-green with overlays of metallic stencilling. The style is largely of the Aesthetic Movement.

Most of the furnishings in the building date to the 1859 reconstruction of the State House, including the 30 black walnut chairs in the Vermont Senate chamber, still used for the same purpose today. Several American Empire-style sofas, a set of klismos chairs, carved black walnut Renaissance Revival-style chairs for the Senate President and House Speaker, and suites of Rococo Revival settées and chairs also date to the completion of Silloway's reconstruction. The majority of the lighting fixtures in the building are original, restored and electrified ormolu gas chandeliers and wall sconces manufactured in Philadelphia by Cornelius and Baker during the 1850s. The large two-tiered, 26-light chandelier in Representatives Hall features sculptures of mythological figures, including a copy of Vermont sculptor Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave , which became an abolitionist icon. Only the large portrait of George Washington, painted c. 1837 by George Gassner after Gilbert Stuart, which hangs above the speaker's chair in Representatives Hall, survived the fire of 1857.

Use of the Vermont State House

Vermont's reputation for popular government is represented by the State House's nickname "the People's House." While its primary use is as the house of the legislative branch of Vermont government, it has from its beginnings also functioned as a living museum and state cultural facility.

The building is open to visitors with remarkably few restrictions whether the legislature is in session or not. The large Representatives Hall is used for evening concerts named "Farmers Nights" during winter months. During warmer weather, the public lawn on the south side is used for concerts by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, municipal bands from around the state, marching regimental bagpipe tattoos, modern dance concerts, as well as to provide space for local residents to sit, eat, and play sports. Quilts, ceramics, photography and paintings by citizens periodically hang in the building's corridors, committee and caucus rooms, and dining room.

In recent years, each February 14 the columns of the portico and lawn are bedecked with red paper hearts by the so-called Valentine Phantom. Additionally, the public lawn and steps of the portico serve as a well-used platform for peaceful demonstrations, press conferences by various official and non-official groups, and for formally welcoming official visitors to the State of Vermont.

On June 12, 2013 Google added the Vermont State House to their Street View imagery. [6]

See also

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  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
  2. "Vermont Statehouse". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  3. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-08-24. Retrieved 2015-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-02-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Walters, John (March 12, 2009). "A Walk Through the State House with David Schütz" (PDF). The Bridge. Montpelier, Vermont.
  6. "Google Maps". Google Maps.

Further reading