by Karl Kurtz
I love the subtitle of the book, Fifty State Capitols: The Architecture of Representative Government, published last year by a former Oregon legislative staffer, Jim Stembridge. In an interview in USA Today about the book, Stembridge says:
...[S]tatehouses are bona-fide tourist attractions — working museums of regional art and history. "They don't have water slides or video games, but they are great...."
In the interview, Stembridge includes the capitols of Utah, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Virginia and Oregon among his favorites, with capsule descriptions as to why he likes each of them.
Those are certainly some great state capitols. But, as an NCSL staff person who has been to all 51 U.S. capitols, I long ago learned that the best answer to "Which is your favorite capitol?" is the one you are standing in when asked the question. Everyone loves their own capitol and thinks it's the best.
Stembridge's book joins a fairly long list of celebrations of the history and architecture of America's state capitols. Here are the ones we have copies of in our office (in order of publication date):
Henry-Russell Hitchcock and William Seale, Temples of Democracy: The State Capitols of the U.S.A, 1976
Charles T. Goodsell, The American Statehouse: Interpreting Democracy's Temples, 2000
Francis Pio Ruggiero, State Capitols: Temples of Sovereignty, 2002
Susan W. Thrane and Tom Patterson, State Houses: America's 50 State Capitol Buildings, 2005.
A rose from The Thicket to Bruce Feustel