Back in the 7th grade on a class trip I visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Pretty much all I remember is its striking rotunda. Not to knock the Pennsylvania capital too much but Harrisburg isn’t a “happening metropolis.” Thankfully the state capital of Ohio is a lot different.
If it’s not the nation’s capital (which is Washington D.C. for those of you lacking in the geography department), state capitals here in the United States have a reputation as being boring…uninspiring…and frankly, lacking. But what sets Columbus, the state capital of Ohio, somewhat apart is that it’s also home to Ohio State University with an enrollment of more than 50,000 students and a student and faculty population from all over the world. So this equates to Columbus being ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse. Needless to say, all of those things were quite evident in the brief glimpse I had of the capital city a few weeks back.
In addition to the pretty cool food tour we went on and the Blue Jackets hockey game where seats close to the ice cost slightly less than nose bleed seats at the Pittsburgh Penguins, I also wanted to visit the Statehouse. Located smack in the city’s downtown, it was only a block away from our hotel so we didn’t have to go out of our way to visit. We got off of the CBUS (a free bus that travels from the Short North neighborhood through downtown and over to the city’s brewery district-this was such a lovely thing, another reason I thought Columbus rocked), and were basically right at the Statehouse.
The Statehouse is open seven days a week (slightly reduced hours during the weekend). You can walk around on your own or take a free guided tour (for more information on the hours and when tours are offered click here). While I would have liked to have gone on a tour, we just missed one (they’re offered on the hour) but thankfully pretty thorough self-guided tour books were available, not to mention you can also check out audio tour wands for free at the museum shop (they really covered all bases). We visited on a Saturday when obviously the politicians are “not at home,” so I’m not sure if there are different procedures during the week.
The Ohio Statehouse has housed the state government since 1861, the same year the Civil War started! Don’t forget that Ohio was one of the first states to join the Union after the Revolutionary War (for a time, Ohio was basically the “West” of America). It was designed in Greek Revival architecture and simply put, it’s beautiful.
While there are state police guards at the entrance to check your bags, that was it in terms of security, so it surprised me a bit that you were essentially allowed to just wander on your own. The Statehouse contains the meeting rooms of the Ohio Legislature, the office of the governor, as well as ceremonial offices of the treasurer and auditor of the state.
The ground floor where you enter and areas of note included the Map Room (there is a floor map of Ohio which depicts the state’s 88 counties using six different types of marble from around the world), and two bronze relief statues that show typical classrooms of the 19th and 20th centuries. There’s also a museum containing historical artifacts and images of individuals with connections to the Statehouse (those who designed it, served here, etc). We did a quick pass through, not being in the uber museum mood.
Traveling up to the first floor allows you to lay your eyes on the utterly beautiful rotunda and grand stair hall. The rotunda has been host to numerous gubernatorial inaugurations and is also where President Lincoln’s body lay in state on the trip from Washington D.C. to Illinois for final interment. There are also beautiful works of art on display ties to the state of Ohio. The governor’s office is also on this floor although it was shuttered.
The second floor was probably my favorite as the Senate and House Chambers were located here. Visitors could access the House Chamber via the rear balcony or what was known back in the day as the “ladies’ gallery” which had been added and set apart for ladies and other invited guests. This room is utterly stunning and I loved all of the details found throughout it. Although at the time, some of architect Nathan B. Kelley’s contemporaries thought the Chamber’s flowery style “too decorative for an American government building,” I thought it was neat. It definitely evoked another era (I couldn’t see anything today being designed like it) but that made it more unique. On that same note, there is a TON of pink throughout the Statehouse. While the Senate Chamber sign said it was open to the public, the door was locked so I’m assuming you can only access it via a guided tour.
And even though it was freezing, I did (briefly) check out some of the statues located on the grounds. Everyone from Ohio veterans to a World War I dough boy to Christopher Columbus to slain former President William McKinley were represented here. Unfortunately the fierce blowing of the wind made my pictures come out rather bleak (I imagine it’s a much more lovely spot when blue skies are in the background).
Considering that it’s free and has some pretty cool things to check out (not to mention great photo opportunities too!), I would definitely recommend stopping here if you’re ever in Columbus. And the gift shop (I know I know, make memories, not collect things) also had a lot of cool and unique Ohio memorabilia including buckeye candies. We naturally bought a container of them.
1 Capitol Square | Columbus, Ohio | 43215