It seems political opinions sprout up everywhere one turns. Some views on a subject, no matter what side of an issue one stands, infuriate the souls of the contradicting viewpoint. It causes individuals, at times, to act irrational and,quite frankly, unacceptable at public protests and gatherings. I chuckle when I think that the center for all the state’s rancor and discord is a popular tourist attraction.
I’m talking, of course, about the Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin, which is now 101 years old. I know, I know, the capitol isn’t billed as a building of torrents and tantrums, more a meeting of minds to carry the state forward. Yet, even the Christmas tree lighting, the tree being our main reason for the visit, was marred by angry cries rendered by protestors of the Governor’s actions.
It seems like such an innocent sight, immune to angst and hatred. I admit,as I walk towards this Balsam Fir, adorned with decorations made by grade school children, I feel nothing but warmth and awe. Standing almost forty feet tall, this tree is completed with a train set circling its base. The Capitol’s rotunda is an elegant setting for such a symbol of holiday cheer, with glossy stone halls leading to the dome. Since 1916, the Capitol has been playing host to a tree.
It’s two in the afternoon, and we’re in for a surprise. A young man, or college student, declares that he is going to lead a tour through the building, It’s absolutely free. We jump right in the tour group and proceed through the distinguished halls of this very elegant structure.
We start at the Governor’s conference room, which literally blows me away. I’m not going to go through the details and history I receive on the tour. I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own tour, wouldn’t want to spoil it.
I’ll just say that the building was built by the same man that erected the first skyscraper in New York City and the New York Stock exchange. Some of the materials are so rare that, now, they would be absolutely impossible to include in such a Government building.
As a matter of fact, the cost for the Capitol, which was erected between 1906 and 1917 was 7.2 million dollars, which comes to about 1.8 billion in today’s money. How do you get such an enormous budget past the ordinary tax payer? Easy, tax the dickens out of the railroads to a tune of 6.5 million dollars.
We proceed through four more rooms, a hearing room, the state supreme courtroom, the senate chamber and assembly chamber. All of these rooms, with the exception of the Governor’s conference room, come with ornate skylights. Artwork, depicting history and symbolisms of the state, also grace these five rooms. I have to say, after the tour, there is more to the state Capitol than I would have ever Imagined.
In my last year and four months I’ve been on some pretty cool tours. However, given the subject matter, history of the building, its importance to my own life and the daunting task of building such a structure, this is the best tour I’ve been on. Kudos to our guide, who not only knew the highlights, but could answer questions about details brought up by some members of our group.
We finish up the tour on the observation deck. From the rim of the Rotunda, you can see the entire city of Madison, artwork sculpted from the dome and lake Mendota.
After the tour, we descend back to the second floor and gaze upon the Tree from about it’s midsection. We glimpse at a very cool nativity scene and a replica of the liberty bell, without the crack. I really don’t want to leave the Capitol but more awaits.
In Madison’s downtown, particularly the famed State Street, we find all sorts of fun shops. It also plays host to theatre’s and Restaurants. The Christmas lights aren’t phenomenal in the street, but add a little cheer. Buildings are very old and the streets are fairly narrow, as a labyrinth of one way streets and unanticipated do not enter signs make driving around the Capitol pretty difficult. Parking is free today, even if it’s a tricky endeavor. There are a few parking garages downtown.
Of course we’re walking, so I’m relaxed and taking in comic book shops, record stores and many other eclectic establishments that peak my interest. We grab a bite to eat and find a place to enjoy a Capital Amber, a beer I’ll drink because of taste -not location.
Finally, its time for us to leave. I enjoyed the day, as it left me with a relaxed persona, while taking in a little history and fun. I do suggest a trip to the State Capitol in Madison Wisconsin, whether your a resident of the state or not. The architecture, materials, history and significance is cause for awe and wonder.