Wednesday, April 07, 2004

MO capitol blog.

The State of Missouri must have decided that its capitol building, lording over Jefferson City on what must be the town's highest point overlooking the Missouri River, isn't high on any extremist's list of targets. You never know now, visiting a government building, what to expect in terms of security. I was mildly amazed -- if you can be such a thing -- to breeze right into the capitol of Missouri. The big formal doors at the top of a lengthy set of steps were closed last Saturday morning, and probably all Saturdays, but signs pointed the curious (me) to a less conspicuous door, tucked beside the steps, and in I went. No one at the door, no metal detectors.

Then again, you'd have to pack a really big boom to put a dent in the building, which is classic state capitol style: big and solid, domed and colonnaded, limestoned and marbled. Perhaps the sad experience of two previous capitol buildings, both of which burned down, inspired the Missouri legislature of the early 1910s to make the third one as sturdy as possible. President Jefferson, looking statuesque, greets visitors outside in front, and I understand that Ceres, the very same ag goddess that has a graven image atop the Chicago Board of Trade, is on top of this building, too, though I had to read about that later. From the vantage of the ground, she could have been Liberty or Justice or Sarah Bernhardt for that matter.

There were two staffers at a desk and a few other tourists, but otherwise the place was deserted. Unusual among capitol buildings, there was a museum there on the first floor, off in one of the wings, with display cases about Missouri's past. (More commonly, such displays are tucked away in capitol basements.) I didn't spent a lot of time there, but I did take a look, especially at the Civil War displays, since Missouri had its own civil war, divided as it was. Elsewhere in the building are the normal governors' portraits, group shots of legislatures, plaques of various kinds, busts of Missourians of renown, paintings, ornaments, and old-timey but functioning fixtures (especially in the elaborately tiled bathrooms).

I wish I'd had a little more time to take a better look at the Thomas Hart Benton murals, and the desk was out of postcards depicting the building, but on whole, it was a good capitol experience. It had all the right elements: easy access, monumental scale, echoing halls, things to see inside.


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