At one time the Capitol housed all branches of state government, including the supreme court, the legislature, the governor and various state administrators, such as the attorney general and the secretary of state. Here on the first floor are offices where some of these agencies were located. Today all but the governor, the lieutenant governor and the legislature have moved to other state office buildings.
The entrance corridor on the first floor conveys the original elegance and craftsmanship of the more than century-old Capitol. Restoration of the main corridors throughout the building involved stabilizing the plaster; restoring the decorative paint, including the wood grained and marbled wainscot and the wood grained doors, doorframes, and windows; restoring and improving the lighting; restoring the original marble and limestone tile floors; and installing an improved system of signs.
Note the entrance hall's beautiful "marble" columns, pilasters, and wainscot. None of it is real marble. Hand painted to fool the eye, the columns are cast iron, the pilasters are plaster, and the wainscot is pine. In this way the opulence of the Victorian age was achieved without expensive materials, an economy necessary to keep the Capitol within its limited construction budget. The resulting building is a masterpiece of craftsmanship rather than merely a showcase for expensive materials.
Above you, the rotunda rises 160 feet to an opening at the top of the inner dome. Called the oculus, or eye of the dome, it provides a glimpse into the vastness of the universe, represented by a starry sky. The rotunda and inner dome are beautifully decorated with elaborately hand-painted designs, as are the walls and ceilings throughout the Capitol. Over nine acres of hand-painted surfaces have been carefully restored to look exactly as they did originally.
The floor of the rotunda is made up of 976 pieces of glass. Each is about five-eights of an inch thick. The floor is 44 1/2 feet in diameter. The floor's design creates an optical illusion: seen from above it appears that the center of the floor sinks to form a bowl. One of the most spectacular sights in the Capitol is the view of the inner dome from the first floor.
Notice the cases circling the rotunda. Until 1990, they contained historic battle flags carried by Michigan regiments during the Civil War, as well as flags carried during the later Spanish-American War and World War I. Because of their deteriorated condition, the original battle flags were moved to the Michigan Historical Museum where they are being preserved. Replicas now take their place in the Capitol.
The Grand Stairs are located in the north and south corridors. The Staircases lead from the ground to the fourth floors on both the north and south sides of the rotunda. Made of cast iron manufactured in Pennsylvania, they are decorated underneath with beautiful painted designs.
One of the most distinctive features of the Capitol is the checkerboard black and white tiled floors in the main corridors. The white tiles are marble, but they are a relatively inexpensive marble quarried in Vermont. The black tiles are limestone, also quarried in Vermont. Look carefully at the black tiles: they are filled with fossils of marine snails and other marine animals which lived in the seas covering Vermont during the Middle Ordovician, about 475 million years ago. The large white spirals in the black tiles are the fossils of Maclurites, a large snail-like mollusk.
On the north wall opposite the elevator is a large clock, called a "long drop" clock. It was once the building's master clock and is at lest as old as the Capitol. It has been restored and today is in excellent running condition.
The chandelier above is one of 20 designed just for the Capitol to light its main corridors. They are called the "Michigan" chandeliers because they feature an elk and shield from our state's coat-of-arms. They were originally lit by gas. They are made of cast metal, not copper, as was long believed.
Source: Your State Capitol. Prepared by the Michigan Legislature
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