1101 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
PO Box 13286
Austin, TX 78711
Texas Capitol & Extension
|Monday - Friday||7 AM - 10 PM|
|Sunday, Saturday||9 AM - 8 PM|
Please note that building hours may be extended during the Legislative Session to accommodate related business.Texas Capitol Gift Shop
Phone - 512.475.2167
|Monday - Friday||8:30 AM - 5 PM|
|Saturday||10 AM - 5 PM|
|Sunday||12 PM - 5 PM|
Online Gift Shop
Ali James, Curator of the Capitol
Richard Eisenhour, Curatorial Assistant
The State Preservation Board was established in 1983 by the 68th Legislature for the purpose of preserving, maintaining and restoring the State Capitol and the General Land Office Building, and their contents and grounds for the benefit of the citizens of Texas. The board consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, one Senator appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, one Representative appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one citizen member appointed by the Governor.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, the Texas Capitol is an impressive example of late 19th century public architecture in America. Completed in 1888, the building was designed in the then-popular Renaissance Revival style, echoing the public structures of 15th and 16th century Italy, which themselves reflected the governmental buildings of ancient Greece and Rome. The Capitol’s basic shape and its rotunda, columns and other classical architectural details are typical Renaissance Revival features, here executed with the finest craftsmanship. The first statehouse on Capitol Square was completed in 1853 at a cost of $100,000. When this Greek Revival limestone structure burned in late 1881, plans were already underway for a new Capitol; earlier that year, a design competition had been won by Elijah E. Myers of Detroit, architect of the 1871 Michigan Capitol. Contractors were soon offered an interesting trade: three million acres of the Texas Panhandle in exchange for constructing a Capitol.Originally, the exterior was to be limestone, but the stone that was quarried streaked when exposed to air. Granite, a harder, more expensive stone, was proposed. The debate delayed construction almost two years. The owners of Granite Mountain then offered to donate the granite. The state gave the stone to the contractor along with 1,000 convicts to quarry it. The exterior design was simplified to accommodate the change to the harder stone.Then, in 1885, the granite cutter’s union objected to the use of convict labor and boycotted. The contractor responded by importing experienced cutters from Scotland. By mid-1887, the walls were up and the dome began to take shape. In February of 1888, the Goddess of Liberty statue was placed on the dome. When the Capitol was finished, it measured over 310 feet in height and had 392 rooms, 924 windows and 404 doors. It took over 1,000 people seven years to build including engineers, contractors, laborers and craftsmen. During the 20th century, the growth of government and new technologies led to ongoing alterations to the Capitol’s appearance. Even though several buildings were added to the Capitol Complex over the years, by the late 1980s, the Capitol was dangerously overcrowded.To relieve the building’s overcrowded conditions, a 1989 Preservation Master Plan proposed adding a structure on the north side of the Capitol, placing it underground so that remaining views of the historic building would not be obscured. The excavation work occurred during 1990, beginning with archaeological studies and ending with the removal of 40,000 truckloads of dirt and stone.The $63 million Capitol Extension was completed in 1993. Designed to complement but not copy the Capitol’s architecture, the Extension has two levels containing offices for two-thirds of the state’s representatives and nearly one-third of its senators; several committee and conference rooms; an auditorium, cafeteria and bookstore; and, two levels of parking. The Capitol and Extension are connected by pedestrian tunnels under the Capitol’s north wing.The $10.2 million Exterior Restoration Project began in 1991, taking two years to complete. The work took place under the protective gaze of the new Goddess of Liberty statue, reproduced and installed during a 1985-86 project. The metal dome was carefully stripped, restored and recoated with a protective paint. Many of the deteriorated sheet metal leaves on the columns surrounding the dome had to be reproduced, but original pieces that could be saved were restored and reattached.The leaky copper roof was fixed and the drainage system improved. Windows and doors were removed for repair, abatement and refinishing. The granite was cleaned and the mortar repaired. The lights outside the Capitol’s four entrances and the oval walkway around the building were restored. Legislative chambers are the symbolic heart of a Capitol; the legislative process that governs the state and its citizens is centered in these spaces. The House Chamber is the largest room in the Capitol, epitomizing the grand scale and tour de force that is Texas. Located on the second floor west wing of the Capitol, the House Chamber--like the Senate--is one of the few rooms still used for its original purpose. During legislative sessions, 150 representatives convene in the room. The Speaker presides from the podium. Restored to its circa 1910 appearance, the House Chamber includes some of the Capitol’s most treasured historical artifacts, including the remains of the original Battle of San Jacinto flag, displayed behind the Speaker’s desk. The Senate Chamber is located on the second floor east wing of the Capitol. Restored to its c. 1910 appearance, the Senate Chamber still contains the original walnut desks purchased in 1888 for the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the Senate and 31 senators from the A. H. Andrews and Company of Chicago. The beautiful brass chandeliers are also original to the room. One of the Chamber’s most impressive aspects is its collection of historical Texas paintings. Between 1888 and 1915, fifteen paintings were placed in the room. Behind the Lieutenant Governor’s desk is a portrait of Stephen F. Austin by an unknown artist, one of the oldest pieces in the collection. Until the 1930s, the Governor officed on the first floor south wing of the building. Most of the Capitol’s woodwork is oak or pine, but the original Governor’s Office woodwork and furnishings are made of mahogany. The room, returned to its c. 1910 appearance, is now used by a member of the Governor’s staff; the Governor offices on the second floor. The Governor’s Public Reception Room, on the second floor south wing of the Capitol, was the equivalent of the parlor in a fine, late 19th century home—a place where the governor could formally greet the people of Texas. The importance of the room was reflected in its elaborate draperies, carpeting and furnishings. Some of the original furniture still remains in the room. The Secretary of State is appointed by and works closely with the Governor. The Secretary’s private office is located on the first floor east wing of the Capitol adjacent to the Governor’s business office. It was restored to its c. 1910 appearance by careful study of a historical photograph and written records.
The center of the Texas judicial system was once located in the Capitol’s third floor north wing where the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals met in nearby courtrooms. The Supreme Court judges presided in a room containing plush carpeting, walnut furniture and draperies like those found in the legislative chambers, sitting behind an elaborately carved bench. The Court of Criminal Appeals Courtroom, while quite handsome and laid out almost identical to its neighbor, received oak furnishings, a simpler judges’ bench, no drapery treatment and a less expensive type of carpeting. Since 1959, the courts have not been located in the Capitol. The restoration of the Supreme Court Courtroom was enhanced by the discovery of original remnants of the carpeting and back drapery, making possible an exact reproduction of their historic patterns and colors. The original State Library was located on the second floor north wing of the Capitol. The State Library and the Supreme Court Library shared this room from 1907 until the late 1950s when the Court moved to its new building. The Legislative Reference Library, formerly a division of the State Library, remained in the space and expanded its services and collections when the State Library relocated to a new building in the early 1960s. Restored to reflect its c. 1894 appearance, the Agricultural Museum, located on the Capitol’s first floor west wing, today serves once more as a museum, as well as a conference room. Display cases original to the room exhibit agricultural products and materials, echoing the historical photographs. The room’s flooring matches the original linoleum pattern; it was reproduced from a piece of the old flooring discovered during the restoration.
After a 1983 fire, a central space on the second floor east wing of the Capitol was redesigned for use as a reception room. Adjacent to the Lieutenant Governor’s private offices, the room features late 19th century
furnishings and historical decorative arts. While not original to the Capitol, the collection includes examples of the Renaissance Revival and Modern Gothic styles of American furniture which were popular at the time the building was designed and constructed. Offices and conference rooms for the Speaker of the House of Representatives are located on the second floor of the building’s west wing. Examples of American antique furniture and historical artwork are located throughout the spaces. The geometrically-patterned clay tile in the adjacent corridor beautifully reproduces the historical appearance of the flooring once used throughout the Capitol. The 22 acres of grounds surrounding the Texas Capitol were designed to provide an appropriate setting for this Renaissance Revival building which has long symbolized the vision, determination and great accomplishments of the State of Texas and its citizens. The drives, walks, trees, plantings and related decorative elements are arranged in a formal, symmetrical way, reflecting the late 19th and early 20th century preference for classically ordered landscapes. A 1990s restoration project returned the historic south area of the grounds to its c. 1888-1915 appearance. Perimeter fencing and gates, complete with star-topped finials, reflect their late 19th century beauty. Along the Great Walk, visitors pass reproductions of the original lighting, benches and nearby fountains. Restored monuments and cannon can be seen throughout the landscape. A stroll across the restored grounds enhances any visit to the Texas Capitol Complex.
The StatePreservation Board sets as its purpose to collect, preserve, protect, interpret and maintain information on original or period objects of historical significance to the Capitol or the State of Texas, or appropriate to the early period of the Capitol's history (circa 1880-1920). The board will encourage study of its collections including publications concerning the objects, and will maintain the highest ethical standards in its interpretation of the collection. More than 3,000 items have been collected to date.
The Texas Capitol, Extension and Capitol Visitors Center are accessible to all people. Free tours of the Texas Capitol are available from the Capitol Information and Guide Service. Call 512.463.0063 for more information. The Capitol Visitors Center, located on the Capitol’s southeast grounds, provides an introduction to the history of the Texas Capitol and the General Land Office. Call 512.305.8400 for hours, exhibit, theater and gift shop information.
Texas Capitol Gift Shop
The Texas Capitol Gift Shop offers a wide variety of Texas themed souvenirs and unique gift items. The shops carry books on Texas history and culture, maps, jewelry, items for the home, children’s toys, and apparel, bags, and accessories featuring state-inspired themes and the Texas state seal. The Capitol’s collectible ornament program, now in its 20th year, is a much-loved tradition at holiday time. The Capitol Gift Shop strives to carry Texas-made items and feature artists from the Austin area. http://www.texascapitolgiftshop.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/TexasCapitolGiftShop/
Online Gift Shop
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