Kentucky Capitol

Ground was broken in 1904 and on June 2, 1910 Kentucky's New Capitol was dedicated with imposing ceremonies.

 

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Capitol Facts

  • The dedication ceremony for the new capitol began on June 2, 1910 and included Governor Augustus Willson, former governors of Kentucky, judges, generals, and congressmen.
  • The final official costs of the new capitol included $1,180,434.80 for the building and $639,565.20 for landscaping, furniture, power plant and architect fees for a grand total of $1,820,000.
  • The cornerstone of the new capitol was laid in a ceremony on June 16, 1906 with an estimated 20,000 onlookers. The exact location of the cornerstone is unknown, although a plaque commemorating the event is located on the northwest rotunda pier wall.
  • Kentucky used the over $1 million from the federal government for damages sustained during the Civil War and for services provided in the Spanish-American War of 1898 in addition to $1 million from the legislature to build the new capitol.
  • None of the planning for the new capitol included any consideration for parking. Popular opinion in the early 20th century viewed the automobile as a fad.
  • There were great stories told during the construction of Kentucky’s capitol of teams of elephants, sophisticated rail systems from the river, and other methods. In reality, the labor was provided by horses and men.
  • The landscape the new capitol sits on was not originally as high as it appears today. The original site was built up with several hundred thousand pounds of fill and excavated to embrace the building’s mass.
  • The size and scale of the design for the new capitol required it to move from what had been historically in the downtown Frankfort area, to a $40,000 piece of property to the south of Frankfort called the Hunt property purchased in 1905.
  • The “new” capitol was built because the old capitol was in deteriorated condition, was heated by fireplaces, increasing the risk of fire, and all buildings surrounding the capitol were at max capacity.

Welcome! 

700 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, Ky 40504

Please contact 502-564-3449 for more information.

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.