Nebraska State Capitol

The ceiling as seen from the second floor of the Capitol.

Roxanne Smith, tourism supervisor in the Office of the Capitol Commission, has been showing visitors the nooks and crannies of the Nebraska State Capitol since 1987. She admits it is difficult to select just a few highlights, but when forced to choose, she came up with these notable details:

"Anyone coming into the Capitol who spends time and studies it can find wonderful patterns and details, which are beautiful on their own, but spectacular when combined as a unified whole."

* I will always believe that our Capitol, even without the extensive grounds of some capitols, is amazingly beautiful and most impressive from the sidewalk. The way the architect has faceted the detailed stonework at the top of the square office tower near the observation decks is especially noticeable now with the strong shadows of the winter sun. Even more amazing is viewing the tower from inside a courtyard. There you really get a sense of how tall it is. Might be tough this time of year, with the snow, but it’s worth it to go into a courtyard, and the snow is starting to melt.

* While the rotunda dome is taller, I think the vestibule dome is more beautiful. In the vestibule dome my favorite part is how Hildreth Meiere has represented the four seasons around the center sun medallion using four female figures dressed in different garments with different accessories associated with the seasons.

* In the great hall or foyer I enjoy the onyx windows. Most people just think they are dirty, but the 1-inch-thick stone is transmitting a very subtle golden light into the hall. That brings me to the Tree Planting mosaic and how beautiful it looks in the late afternoon when the light coming in from the west onyx windows shines and reflects off the gold Venetian glass tile, which mosaicist Jeanne Reynal used to represent trees and tree branches. But unless you move away from the center of the hall to stand under the bust of William F. Cody, you don’t see it because of the angle of reflection.

* The four relief sculptures in the top of the Kasota Stone piers in the great hall are pretty nice, too. They represent the Four Ages of Mankind -- childhood, adolescence, maturity and old age. They have very nice detail, including Lee Lawrie’s different sun designs in the background of the relief. And it’s amazing to think about all the detail and depth of field he packed into the very low relief.

* In the rotunda I really like that Hildreth Meiere has included our state fossil, the mammoth, and our state bird, the western Meadowlark, in the ribbon of animals who have lived in Nebraska. Anyone who is adventurous can lie down right in the center of the rotunda floor, and when looking up, they will see an interesting view of the 3,500-pound bronze chandelier filling the space and taking the place of the dome.

* One more: When standing at the intersection of the cross on the south side of the rotunda, the shadows cast by the Hall of Fame’s arched windows form lovely patterns on the limestone floors.

"These are things that I notice and enjoy each and every day as I move about the building doing state’s business. Bertram Goodhue designed a Capitol that enriches the lives of those who use it and move through it, if only folks look up and notice the beauty around them."

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​Reach Kathryn Cates Moore at 402-473-7214 or at  kmoore@journalstar.com.


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