Happy Birthday Statehouse

An early morning photo March 30, 2013.
dwm photo
Wisconsin's fourth Capitol celebrates 100 years in 2017.

The first capital, in Belmont, was used as a home for the territory.  The second was built in Madison, but after twenty years proves not to be up for the job.

The third opens in 1869 with additions tacked on later.  It's not looking to be up to the task either, but as lawmakers begin to consider a new one fire destroys the building in 1904.

The new building goes up a piece at a time until the work wraps up in 1917 for the princely sum of $7.2 million.  In 2001, a complete renovation and restoration is finished for $145 million.
Flight over Madison October 22, 2016.
dwm photo

I remember a fourth grade field trip to the Capitol.  We raised money for the trip from Janesville by selling seeds.  I sold seeds to my family, the neighbors, and people in the neighborhood.

When the big day came, we took a yellow school bus to Madison. We clambered off the bus and up the steps into the huge building.

Tour guides explained the history of the statehouse.  We walked through the galleries for the Assembly and Senate.  The murals and impressive desk in the Supreme Court left us wide-eyed.

A Capitol view from
State Street. dwm
 At the time, there was a Civil War Museum in the Capitol.  What I remember most was a stuffed Bald Eagle, Old Abe.

The bird was a mascot for a Wisconsin regiment during the War Between the States.

The idea intrigued me.

Another which caught my attention was the magnificent building  itself.  It stood 19" shorter than the nation's capital, out of respect, and Madison's downtown buildings couldn't obscure its view.

It stands on a rise on the isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona.  The statue, Wisconsin, tops the world's largest geographic marker.

It can be seen for miles, especially on sunny days.

Whenever I passed near Madison I scanned the horizon searching for a bright white dome.  From just north of Oregon on U.S. Highway 14 or U.S. Highway 12 northwest of the city the capitol is a shining symbol of government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

August 14, 2012. dwm
Moving here four years ago hasn't changed how I feel when I see the dome. It peeks between trees and buildings at pedestrians, bicyclists, and others driving through the city.

Just like the building itself, sometimes the of - for and by the people ideal gets lost in our politicized times.  It may have always been that way, but the ideal now seems more elusive.

Which may be the grand building's best role - signifying our government is built for us and the idea for which it stands will continue to stand despite the rolling and twisting political winds around us.

As we celebrate the building's 100th birthday for its beauty and majesty - it's good to remember the people the great governing idea refer to are us.

We should do more than throw a party for the past, we need to stay involved and engaged so in another 100 years those following us can also give thanks for our democratic republic.