Following our time at the Minnesota History Center, we made the short walk over to the state capitol building to take a guided tour. The tour center was clearly labeled in a room just off to the right from the doors we entered. They also had a small gift shop located in the same room. We were told the tour would start just outside the tour office in about 15 minutes, but were free to browse around the rotunda area until the tour began.
We actually had a decent sized group for our tour, including several children, but all of the kids were very well behaved, and our tour guide was wonderful in answering any and all questions throughout the tour. We began in the rotunda area, where he explained how all of the materials used in the building of this third capitol building were native to Minnesota (except for the materials brought in from a Georgia mine, but that mine was bought my Minnesotans to make it still count!) He also explained about how all of the flower/plant carvings found around the building were plants native to the state. Minnesota is also known as the North Star state, so the giant north star in the middle of the rotunda floor pays tribute to that, as well as providing a natural skylight to basement offices, which is why they don’t allow people to walk on top of that North Star formation.
From there we made our way up to the second floor, with our first stop being the Supreme Court chambers. What was neat about this room was that it contains four murals depicting important times in history where “law” was given. I got a picture of when the 10 Commandments were given as I liked how the artist portrayed God as a ball of fire.
Our next stop on that level was the House of Representatives. We got to view it from the upper chambers public viewing area. I again really liked the artwork and quotes place within the chamber. I also thought it was neat how you could see the board where everyone’s votes show up.
We also got to take a quick view of the Senate Chambers but had to do so quietly as some senators were actually there working. The state capitol recently underwent three years of restoration, and the really neat part was they saved a small part unrestored so that you could see how needed the project was. You can see how dark the paint got from all the people who had previously been allowed to smoke in the building, as well as all the dust that built up over the years, and how as repainting would happen in prior years, things gradually shifted from their original painted location.
Our tour ended in the Governor’s Reception Hall, which contained four portraits done of the Civil War as Minnesota Regiments were crucial in several battles of the Civil War. They also used to have two paintings of Native American tribes, but those were seen having historic inaccuracies, so they are now looking into other options to fill those portrait areas.
Apparently if you tour in April through October, you also can walk out on the balcony below the rotunda and few the golden sculpture up close. Sadly we visited a few weeks too early, so we may have to stop in another time if we want that experience.
I highly recommend taking the time to tour the building with a guide as it was very informative and is free! They do recommend a small donation, but are not pushy about it.
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