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A Walk through
VERMONT’S HISTORIC STATE HOUSE

LAWN & PORTICO

The State House is surmounted by a gold dome and statue of Agriculture. The dome is 57 feet high and is made of wood sheathed in copper and covered with 23.7, carat gold leaf, as pure as can be obtained. The original statue of Agriculture atop the dome was created by Brattleboro sculptor Larkin Mead, but in 1938 the wooden statue had rotted and was in danger of toppling off the dome. With the help of his janitorial staff, 87-year-old Sergeant-at-Arms Dwight Dwinell carved a 14-foot replacement mounted on a six-foot pedestal.

Flanking the State House on the lawn are two Spanish naval guns that were captured from a Spanish cruiser at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Under Admiral George Dewey, the American fleet destroyed eleven Spanish ships and captured several others without any loss of American life. The Admiral was born in a house that stood directly across the street from the State House, and as a boy he played on the front steps of the building.

Ami B. Young

Ammi B. Young designed Vermont's previous statehouse whose Grecian portico still graces the front of the structure.

The only remaining portion of the earlier Greek Revival statehouse of the 1830’s is the front portico upon which stands a statue of Ethan Allen. In 1941 Larkin Mead’s original marble sculpture of the fabled leader of the Green Mountain Boys was replaced with this replica due to deterioration from exposure to weather.


FIRST FLOOR

Upon entering the main Lobby of the State House, you will see the only work of art by Larkin Mead that remains in the capitol: the bust of Abraham Lincoln at the end of the Hall of Inscriptions. This bust was done in preparation for the large bronze statue Mead created for Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois. The lobby's marble floor exhibits white tiles from Danby, Vermont and black tiles from Isle La Motte on Lake Champlain. If you look closely you will see fossils embedded in many black tiles.

Architectural Detail

Cast iron "gilt-bronze" steam screens were the decorative means of disguising the original steam radiators.

Portraits in this lobby include two naval heroes of the Spanish-American War, Admirals Dewey of Montpelier and Charles Clark of Bradford. The two presidents of the United States from Vermont are also portrayed here, Calvin Coolidge of Plymouth Notch and Chester Arthur of Fairfield.

The remainder of the first floor consists of offices for Vermont’s lieutenant governor, hearing rooms and Senate committee rooms. Many of these spaces have been restored to their nineteenth century condition.

Architectural Detail

Carpets and drapes found throughout the building are in many cases documented patterns that have been replicated as part of the restoration of the State House.


SECOND FLOOR

The second floor House Vestibule is also called the Hall of Flags because it houses some of the 68 flags carried by Vermont regiments in the Civil War. Many bear evidence of battle damage but display beautiful designs painted on silk. The vestibule has recently been restored to its 1859 appearance. Note the elaborate ornamental plaster ceiling, the mid-nineteenth century window treatments, and replicas of the original gas chandeliers on which cherubs dance with tambourines in their hands. The carpet, an exact reproduction of the original, has oak leaves and acorns sprinkled across its surface. William Henry Rinehart’s Pioneer and Indian, statues cast for the State House, flank the entrance to Representatives’ Hall.

Representatives’Hall is home to the 150-member Vermont House of Representatives. This chamber also has been restored to the way it looked in 1859. The plaster lotus blossom in the center of the ceiling includes petals that weigh approximately 500 pounds. From its center hangs the original bronze and gilt chandelier, one of America’s most important surviving gas fixtures. It includes allegorical figures of Commerce, Prudence, Eloquence and Science alternating with four copies of Hiram Powers’ famous Greek Slave, perhaps an abolitionist statement in this pre-Civil War building. On the underside of the chandelier are eight copies of Vermont’s coat-of-arms. Above the Speaker’s rostrum hangs the historic portrait of George Washington. Rescued from the fire that destroyed the previous statehouse in 1857, this 1836 copy by George Gassner of Gilbert Stuart’s original was rehung in the same location in the present House Chamber. Above it is the Vermont coat of arms, carved of pine, painted and gilded. The carpet, draperies and upholstery have been restored to their original appearance.

The Senate Chamber, with all of its original furnishings, is remarkably well-preserved. With only 30 members, the Senate is an intimate yet grand room. The combination of Renaissance and Rococo Revival furnishings combine with the elliptically shaped classical architecture to create this accessible elegance. The elaborate hand-carved rostrum, with Vermont’s coat of arms at its center, is lit by gas lamps symbolizing the muses of Inspiration and Meditation. The magnificent gasolier, found in 1979 after an absence of nearly 65 years, was refurbished and reinstalled in 1981. It features a maritime theme with seahorses, water lilies and figures of Neptune.

Architectural Detail

Lighting fixtures throughout the State House are decorated with Renaissance symbols such as this warrior cherub.

The Governor’s Office, meticulously restored to its original 1859 appearance by the Friends of the Vermont State House in 1985, is used when the legislature is in session or for ceremonial occasions. The chamber is furnished with replicas of the original carpet, draperies, gasolier, and some furniture. The Constitution Chair, carved from timbers of the frigate U.S.S. Constitution, better known as "Old Ironsides," has served as Vermont’s official governor's chair since 1858. Portraits of nineteenth century governors in the room include works by Thomas Waterman Wood, Benjamin Franklin Mason and J.Q.A. Ward.

The Cedar Creek Reception Room has been restored to a period later than the building itself. Dominated by the 20 by 10 foot painting The Battle of Cedar Creek, the chamber served as the state library until it was transformed and redecorated as a reception room in 1888. Elaborate wall stencils, bent brass gas chandeliers, an Oriental-inspired carpet design and stained glass skylights brought the "Gilded Age" to the Vermont State House. This redecoration swept its way through the building, and some smaller rooms downstairs have also been returned to this period. The Battle of Cedar Creek, painted by Julian Scott from 1871 to 1874 for the State House, commemorates one of Vermont’s finest moments in the Civil War. In Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in October, 1864, the Old Vermont Brigade in the center of the canvas leads a rally that would reverse a Union retreat. A native of Johnson, Vermont, Scott won one of the first Congressional Medals of Honor for valor at the battle at Lee’s Mills.


We hope you've enjoyed your visit to Vermont's historic State House! We also invite you to visit the Vermont Historical Society museum in the Pavilion Building, two doors east of the State House.