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History: Texas TraSPBmits Herself to Posterity
Architectural Rendering of the First Capitol

First Capitols
Described by one Austin visitor as "without any pretensions to architectural beauty," Austin's first Capitol was built of Bastrop plank lumber on a hilltop west of Congress Avenue.

Photo of the Second Capitol burning The next Capitol in Austin was located at Capitol Square and completed in 1853. When this Greek Revival structure burned in late 1881, plans were already underway for a new Capitol. The Capitol Board which was meeting in the building at the time fire broke out, quickly moved the plans to safety.
Photo of Eliijah E. Myers

The Architect
The Texas State Capitol was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers, architect of the Michigan and Colorado Capitols, who won a nationwide design competition for the project in 1881. Contractors were offered an interesting trade: three million acres in the Texas Panhandle in exchange for constructing the Capitol. This acreage would become the famous XIT Ranch.

Photo of the Capitol Rotunda under construction

Construction on the Capitol began in February 1882. 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 for almost two years. Finally the decision was made to use "Sunset Red" granite donated by its owners in what is now Marble Falls, Texas. The state gave the stone to the contractor along with 1,000 convicts to quarry it. When, in 1885, the granite cutter's union objected to the use of convict labor and boycotted, the contractor responded by importing experienced stonecutters from Scotland.

Photo of Goddess of Liberty on Capitol Grounds prior to installation, February 1888

The Goddess
By mid-1887, the walls were up and the dome began to take shape. In February 1888, the Goddess of Liberty statue was placed on the dome. When the Capitol was finished, it measured over 310 feet in height, had 392 rooms, 924 windows and 404 doors. It took over 1,000 people, including engineers, contractors, laborers and craftsmen, seven years to build at a cost of $3,744,600.

The Dedication
The Capitol opened to the public on San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1888. In May, week-long festivities marked the dedication and were organized to celebrate the "splendor that was befitting the glory of Texas and the grandeur of that building." Special streetcar lines were built to encampment grounds set up one mile from the city. Drill team competitions, military displays, band concerts and fireworks were among the attractions. Crowds lined Congress Avenue and filled the Capitol grounds to watch the parade and ceremonies.

Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston, accepted the building at the dedication: "This building fires the heart and excites reflections in the minds of all... the architecture of a civilization is its most enduring feature, and by this structure shall Texas transmit herself to posterity..."

Photo of Capitol dedication ceremony on south steps

Photo of marching band on parade down Congress Avenue