Kentucky's Capitol is the fourth permanent building since statehood in 1792. It was built to replace the earlier 1830 capitol, still standing in downtown Frankfort, which had become inadequate to accommodate the growing state government. A long and bitter quarrel among Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort over which city should be Kentucky's Capital finally ended in 1904, when the legislature voted to spend one million dollars for a new capitol to replace the 1830 capitol on the old public square in downtown Frankfort. The architect's design was far too immense for the square, so the present site in south Frankfort was chosen instead.
Ground was broken in 1904 and on June 2, 1910 Kentucky's New Capitol was dedicated with imposing ceremonies.
The architect was Frank Mills Andrews, a native of Iowa who practiced in Chicago, New York City, Cincinnati and Dayton. Andrews was a distinguished architect. He received the Silver Medal Award from the Royal Society of Arts in 1911 for a paper he presented on "American Architecture" at a meeting of the Society in London. A proponent of the Beaux-Arts style, many striking architectural features and opulent decorative finishes in Kentucky's Capitol illustrate his penchant for classical French interiors.
The State Reception Room was designed as a place for ceremonial events. The walls are decorated with pilasters finished in scagliola and murals, hand painted to resemble tapestries from the Gobelin Tapestry Guild. Original to the room, the hand carved Circassian walnut furniture was crafted to resemble 17th century French Baroque pieces.
The room was recently restored under the direction of the Historic Properties Advisory Commission (HPAC) and the Office of Historic Properties. The project included installation of HVAC for climate control, the conservation of wall murals and the restoration of the decorative finishes and furniture.
The elegance of the Capitol's interior was largely achieved by the generous use of white Georgia marble, gray Tennessee marble and dark green Italian marble. On axis with the rotunda, the grand corridors feature 36 imposing columns of Vermont granite and delicate art glass skylights.
Decorative lunettes above each staircase highlight the entrances to the House and Senate chambers. Painted in oils by T. Gilbert White, both depict frontier scenes with Daniel Boone. The east mural portrays Boone and his party catching their first glimpse of the Bluegrass region atop Pilot Knob in 1769. The west mural depicts the negotiations for the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, which lead to the purchase of Cherokee land that would eventually become Kentucky.
Kentucky's legislative bodies meet in the House and Senate chambers. Both chambers continue the classical motifs of the building, incorporating scagliola (faux marble) for their decorative architectural features.
The resplendent Supreme Court room serves as the seat of the judicial branch of state government. The room is noted for its solid Honduras mahogany paneling and the elegant coffered ceiling covered in Old Dutch Metal leafing, hammered to imitate old bronze.
The exterior of the Capitol is faced in Indiana limestone and Vermont granite. The richly sculptured pediment of the classical front portico was designed by Charles Henry Niehaus and carved by Australian sculptor Peter Rossack. Allegorical figures represent Kentucky, the central female figure, with Progress, History, Plenty, Law, Art and Labor as her attendants.
The Office of Historic Properties of the Finance and Administration Cabinet serves as state curator over all state owned historic properties and is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of the Capitol so that we and future generations may continue to enjoy it. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.