Tennessee State Capitol

A MUST STOP FOR VISITORS TO NASHVILLE

Tennessee State Capitol Nashville TN
Tennessee State Capitol 8-2019
Tours: Monday through Friday
at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m.,
Groups of ten or more should make a reservation prior to their visit by calling the Public Programs Department at (615) 741-0830 or toll-free (800) 407-4324.
The prominent Nashville hilltop site of what is now the Tennessee State Capitol was formerly occupied by the Holy Rosary Cathedral (no longer extant), the first Roman Catholic cathedral church in Nashville (with the Diocese of Nashville at that time once comprising the entire territory of the State of Tennessee).[3][4][5]
Tennessee State Capitol
The Tennessee State Capitol during the Civil War
The State Capitol was designed by renowned Philadelphia architect William Strickland, who modeled it after a Greek Ionic temple. The prominent lantern structure located above the roof line of the Tennessee state capitol is a design based upon the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens that honors the Greek god Dionysus doing battle with Tyrrhenian pirates.[6] The cornerstone of the Tennessee state capitol was itself laid on July 4, 1845 and the building was completed fourteen years later in 1859.[7]
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 220px-View_from_Capitol._Nashville%2C_Tennessee_%285614200862%29.jpg
View from the capitol ca. 1865

The American Society of Civil Engineers has listed the building as a civil engineering landmark in recognition of its innovative construction, which made unusually extensive use of stone and was an early example of the use of structural iron. Both the interior and exterior are built with limestone from a quarry about 1-mile (1.6 km) from the site. Some interior columns were built from single pieces of stone, requiring massive wooden derricks to hoist them into place. Wrought iron, instead of wood, was used for the roof trusses to reduce the building’s vulnerability to fire.[8]

Tennessee State Capitol depicted on an 1864 Confederate $20 banknote
Tennessee State Capitol depicted on an 1864 Confederate $20 banknote

Commercial, convict, and slave labor were used in the project. Fifteen enslaved Black men worked on carving the Capitol’s limestone cellar from 1845 to 1847; Nashville stonemason A.G. Payne was paid $18 a month for their labor. It is believed to be “the most significant project where the [Tennessee] state government rented slave labor.”[9]

Strickland died five years before the building’s completion and was entombed in its northeast wall. His son, F. W. Strickland, supervised completion of the structure. William Strickland also designed the St. Mary’s Cathedral (located along the base of the capitol hill), as well as Downtown Presbyterian church located just a few blocks away from the state capitol.[4]

Samuel Dold Morgan (1798–1880), chairman of the State Building Commission overseeing the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol, is entombed in the southeast corner near the south entrance.

Monuments[edit]

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Monuments on the Capitol grounds include statues of two of the three Tennessee residents who served as President of the United States: Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills and Andrew Johnson by Jim Gray. The second President from Tennessee, James K. Polk, is buried in a tomb on the grounds, together with his wife, Sarah Childress Polk.[10][11] Other monuments on the grounds include the Sgt. Alvin C. York Memorial by Felix de Weldon, the Tennessee Holocaust Commission Memorial, the Sam Davis Memorial at the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds, the Sen. Edward Ward Carmack Memorial located above the Motlow Tunnel near the south entrance, and the Memorial to Africans during the Middle Passage at the southwest corner of Capitol grounds. The Charles Warterfield Reliquary is a group of broken limestone columns and fragments removed and saved from the State Capitol during the mid-1950s restoration, located near the northern belvedere on Capitol Drive.

The building has housed a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest thanks to Democratic state senator Douglas Henry since 1978.[12] The presence of the bust has been controversial since its dedication.[12] Legislation was proposed in 2017 towards moving it to the Tennessee State Museum.[13]

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