A MUST STOP FOR VISITORS TO NASHVILLE
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.
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.”
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.
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 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. 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. The presence of the bust has been controversial since its dedication. Legislation was proposed in 2017 towards moving it to the Tennessee State Museum.