The capitol building pictured in this old postcard replica (one of a packet of Salem historical postcard reprints I recently bought) is the second of three Oregon State Capitol buildings.
Salem Online History provides interesting information about all three Oregon State Capitol buildings and the Capitol Mall in a one-page fact sheet with photos, some of it reproduced for this post.
Oregon's first capitol building, shown in this painting below, was built in 1854 and . . . "On the night of December 29, 1855, after having been in use scarcely a month, the frame building burned to ruins. . .
. . . For the next twenty years, which included the transition to Statehood in 1859, the Oregon Legislature convened in rented rooms in commercial buildings near the Salem riverfront."
Construction for the second capitol building -- the one shown in this week's old postcard -- began in 1873 and was substantially completed by 1876.
During 1887 to1888, when the grand staircases and covered porticoes supported by colossal Corinthian columns were added to the east and west entrances, it made the approach to the west front very visible. It was not until 1893, however, that the new statehouse was crowned with the dome . .
The copper-clad dome echoed, as did those of so many statehouses across the country, including the dome which Thomas U. Walter added to the nation’s capitol in the 1850’s. There being no other superstructure like it in Oregon, the statehouse dome became a symbol of state government.
Although symbolic, the dome's primary purpose was to admit light to the rotunda. Owing to the structural support system required for its addition, the dome was at once the feature which most distinguished the statehouse and the principal means by which the building was destroyed after nearly sixty years of service.
Yup. Another fire...
Capitol fire 1935
On April 25, 1935, a fire started in the basement of the east wing and quickly spread to piles of old records in wooden storage boxes. As the strong updraft in the hollow columns enclosing the dome’s eight supporting steel lattice girders pulled the flames through the rotunda to upper stories, the core of the building was rapidly engulfed in flames. The dome inverted and collapsed into its well. Despite the efforts of the Salem Fire Department, the building could not be saved. Volunteers succeeded in removing a miscellany of furniture and records. Among the rescuers of records and furniture was the young Mark O. Hatfield, who would later become Governor of Oregon and a United States Senator.
The third Capitol was constructed between December 4, 1936, and June 18, 1938. It was enlarged in 1977 and is the capitol building Oregonians know and love to this day. It is where union members and sympathizers gathered last weekend in solidarity with the public employees in Wisconsin....which was my roundabout reason for selecting this old postcard today, because of various scenes from state capitol buildings (and other public sites) around the U.S. shown on television last weekend. I looked beyond the crowds to view the capitol buildings because the architecture interests me.
I am not sure how many state capitols I have seen in person, perhaps ten or so, and they were all beautiful - yet similar in that solidly-stirring, inspiring-solid, grand-statehouse sort of manner....... Then I saw a report on the rally last weekend outside the New York State Capitol building in Albany. I was gobsmacked and not even sure I heard the reporter correctly because the building had such grandeur and looked unlike any other statehouse I had seen in person or in photos. I love this building and absolutely want to learn about its history and want to see it some day.
This one thing is sure: you New Yorkers have the grand-daddy of State Capitol buildings. I wonder if those of you who are unfamiliar with it will find it similarly breathtaking. Look at this!
Two images above via Capitol Opera Albany
Image by Pete Dzintars, who features an amazing time-lapse video of Albany, NY, that includes views of the beautiful capitol building - view here.