Did You Know?
The Michigan Senate owns the only known portrait of Elijah E. Myers, architect of the Michigan Capitol. This large portrait hangs in one of the nicest rooms in the Michigan Capitol, the Elijah Myers Room. This room is near the Senate Chamber and is used for Senate Majority Caucuses.
Myers also designed Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing, as well as the original Lansing High School, now part of Lansing Community College.
Decorative Paint in the Capitol Building
There are more than nine (9) acres of hand-painted surfaces in the Capitol.
The designs on the walls include papyrus, lotus, honeysuckle, acanthus leaves, amphibian, daisy, laurel, holly, palm, hibiscus, poinsettias, oak leaves, dolphins, the Greek Key or the Greek Fret, and vermicular or worms. There are designs that resemble fabric, mosaics, leather, shields, seashells, rosettes, cornucopias, ribbons, banners, and festoons. There is even the mystical animal called the Winged Griffin.
Chandeliers in the Senate Chamber
According to the Reports of the State Auditors, the large “prismatic reflecting” chandeliers in the Senate (and House) Chamber were purchased in 1878 from Western Electric Manufacturing Company for $150 each. The Senate has four of these chandeliers. (The House has six of them.)
A news article in 1956 said the Senate considered replacing these large chandeliers with one large “modern” light fixture recommended by Rambusch Co, of New York. The new fixture would have been 15 feet high and 7 feet in diameter and the cost was $4,000. However, Senators refused to give up the original chandeliers. (Lansing State Journal – 5-11-1956)
The Voting Boards in the Senate Chamber
During the restoration of the Capitol Building, the four black voting boards at the front of the Senate Chamber were replaced by two hidden electronic voting boards. The old voting boards were obtrusive because they were large and projected out from the walls.
The new voting boards have full matrix, tri-colored LED displays and are among the most advanced in the nation. They provide great flexibility in displaying information and for making changes in the future.
The new voting boards were camouflaged by being flush-mounted in the walls and then covered with a silk-screened plexiglas panel, colored to match the adjacent wall surface. This was the first known use of silk-screening in the United States for this purpose. This method was chosen because the silk-screening process provides for:
- the exact number of dots per inch necessary to allow for the LED lights to show clearly through the plexiglas;
- the ability to incorporate decorative paint designs; and
- even paint coverage;
When the Senate is not in session, the boards are turned off and the plexiglas boards blend in with the color of the walls so the voting boards are transparent.
Etched Glass Panels in the Ceiling of the Senate Chamber
There are 90 etched glass panels in the ceiling of the Senate Chamber. The glass panels feature the coats-of-arms of all 50 states.
When Elijah Myers designed the ceiling for the Senate Chamber in the early 1870s, he only included 37 state seals since there were only 37 states comprising the United States at that time. The restoration of the Senate Chamber in 1989 gave the Senate the opportunity to include the seals of all 50 states.
The State Seal of Michigan is directly above the Rostrum.
The Seal of the United States is above the Senate Gallery and above the center aisle.
There is one glass panel above the center aisle depicting the Mackinac Bridge. It was designed by a student who won a legislative contest for the design of the panel.
There are 30 glass panels depicting geometric and astronomical designs.
Other panels depict:
- Farmer sowing seeds
- Michigan industry
- Sailing ship
- Horse-drawn wagon
- Bowl of fruit
- Apple blossoms
All of the original etched glass panels were removed in 1957 as a safety measure after holes were cut in a couple of them and the two panels cracked. There was some concern that other panels could break under certain conditions. (Lansing State Journal, 1-15-1957)
The restoration of the Senate Chamber in 1989 led to the discovery of some of the original glass panels in a private home near Newago, Michigan, and in Casa Dominick’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor. In both cases, the glass panels were mounted in the walls and/or doors at the two locations. The owners were generous in allowing the restoration team to take photos and make etchings of the glass panels so they could be reproduced.
Woodwork in the Senate Chamber
The Senate Rostrum and the desks of the Senators are all made of walnut wood. Most of the other wood – the doors, window shutters, wainscot, etc. – is made of pine or other inexpensive woods. It has been wood-grained to mimic walnut. Wood-graining is the process of painting wood with various coats of paint and hand-graining it to replicate the appearance of the desired wood.
Michigan's Capitol Building is a National Historic Landmark
The Michigan Capitol Building became a National Historic Landmark in 1992 when it was recognized for it's outstanding art, architecture, history and restoration.
Michigan's Capitol Receives Many Awards
The Michigan Capitol Building has received numerous awards honoring the building and it's restoration:
- National Preservation 1992 Honor Award presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation
- 1996 Honor Award for Architecture presented by the American Institute of Architects - U.S.
- 1992 AIA Michigan Award of Honor presented by the American Institute of Architects - Michigan
- 1992 President's Award presented by the Michigan Historic Preservation network
- Certificate of Recognition presented by the American Consulting Engineers Council
- Honorable Conceptor Awards presented by the Consulting Engineers Council of Michigan
- 1991 Honor Award for the Engineering Excellence for Restoration of Senate and House Chambers presented by the American Consulting Engineers Council
- M Award for Excellence in Masonry Design
Commemorating the 120th Year Anniversary of Michigan's Capitol Building / 1879-1999
Michigan's Capitol Will Never Be Built Again
"Our Capitol Building is a very rare structure and its kind will never be built again. To destroy it would be a crime that would grow in importance as the years go by … there is no other building like this anywhere and it a monumental stepping stone in our culture that will become more fully realized as it ages.Alden B. Dow, nationally known architect from Michigan; 2/28/1965
If Michigan's Capitol Building Were in Europe
"I rank this building high among the State Capitols and public buildings of the United States; if it were in Europe it would rank among the notable public buildings there as well, and be visited by many tourists from America … it is easily among the outstanding public buildings in Michigan, and should be valued as such by the citizens of the state."Harley McKee, AIA, Professor of Architectural History, Syracuse University, NY; 3/2/1966
One of the Oldest Capitol Buildings in the U.S.
"This building is one of the oldest existing capitols in our fifty states which has been altered or added onto the very least … A most sincere effort must be made to preserve and retain its present integrity."Committee on the State Capitol, Michigan Society of Architects, December, 1966
Capitol Building - Symbol of State Government
"The Michigan State Capitol Building, built during the 1870s, is a monument of historic and architectural merit. Its historical significance results from the fact that all major actions which have shaped the growth of Michigan have taken place within its walls. The architectural importance grows out of the building's representation of the Classic Revival style. It is now recognized as pivotal in the history of American public building architecture."
"The building was a pioneer in architecture, bringing new scale, refinement, and elegance to State Capitol Building design. It epitomizes the nationalism that followed the Civil War. With the greater availability of workers and funding after the war, Michigan produced one of the best State Capitols of the 'Gilded Age'."Dick Frank, FAIA, Restoration Architect for the Michigan Capitol Building, 1986
Michigan's Capitol Sets National Standard
"We have set a national standard with the Michigan restoration … in what I think combines the most state-of-the-art technology and accurate Capitol Building restoration in the United States."William Seale, Author of Michigan's Capitol: Construction and Restoration, 1995
(Seale also wrote other books on 50 State Capitols, Victorian Furnishings, and the White House.)