Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, turned out to be directly on the way from Myrtle Beach to Washington, D.C., so we decided to stop. As not only the state capital of Virginia but also the capital of the Confederate States of America (CSA), Richmond turned out to have some interesting history.

Across the street from Richmond’s Capitol Square was this gorgeous old government building:

IMG_0939 by PunIntented
IMG_0962 by PunIntented
Inside the square was this plaque, commemorating the CSA’s 1862 inauguration ceremony, where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the first and only president of the Confederacy:

IMG_0940 by PunIntented
Also in Capitol Square was this monument to George Washington, the first of eight Virginia-born U.S. presidents.

IMG_0942 by PunIntented
Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol building in 1785, based on classical Roman temple design. The initial Capitol was just the central building – the east and west wings weren’t added until 1906. Today, Virginia’s Capitol is the second-oldest still in use, next to the one in Annapolis, Maryland.

IMG_0944 by PunIntented
Oddly, you don’t enter the Capitol building directly. Instead, you enter what looks like a detached structure which is some distance away and built into the hillside. It turns out that this entrance leads to the Capitol’s underground extension, built in 2007 to add meeting, reception, and media space to the Capitol. As seems to be typical with construction projects, the project dragged on longer than expected, but was completed in time for its hard deadline, a visit by Queen Elizabeth for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown.

The Roman temple architecture makes Virginia’s Capitol look very different from the typical domed capitols found in most other states. As it turns out, Virginia’s Capitol also has a dome, but it’s hidden from view from the outside.

IMG_0945 by PunIntented
In the Capitol’s rotunda is Jean-Antoine Houdon’s life-sized marble statue of George Washington, based on body measurements, sketches, and a mask made by the sculptor in 1785 at Mt. Vernon.

IMG_0951 by PunIntented
Surrounding Washington in the rotunda are busts of the other seven American presidents born in Virginia, including Thomas Jefferson.

IMG_0957 by PunIntented
This plate describes what’s known as the “Capitol Disaster,” which killed 62 people. The Capitol’s third floor couldn’t support the weight of the crowd drawn by a particularly popular court case, and collapsed into the House of Delegates’ chamber.

IMG_0959 by PunIntented
Patrick Henry was the seventh governor of Virginia when the Capitol’s first stone was laid in 1785.

IMG_0963 by PunIntented
Robert E. Lee accepted control of the Confederate troops in the Capitol building when Richmond was the capital of the CSA.

IMG_0967 by PunIntented
Another good outside view of the Capitol building.

IMG_0978 by PunIntented
Also in Capitol Square is the Executive Mansion, home of the governor of Virginia.

IMG_0980 by PunIntented
We’ve seen a few capitol buildings on our travels, but this one, due to its extensive history, may have been the best yet. After our stop, we continued on to D.C.!

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