South Dakota Capitol Building

Trip Start May 06, 2010
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Trip End Oct 14, 2010


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Where I stayed
Willows Motel, Linton, ND

Flag of United States  , North Dakota
Thursday, June 10, 2010

I went to Pierre, SD today.  The first surprise is how it's pronounced.  It's a one-syllable word here.  They pronounce it like "pier" is pronounced.  The explanation I was given, which may or may not be true, is that the people here wanted to get rid of anything French, including the pronunciation of their capital city, after the Louisiana Purchase freed them from French rule.

I went to Pierre to go to the South Dakota State Capitol Building.  It's small compared to most I've visited but, unlike most of them, it still houses the Governor, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate.  Like most, it's modeled on the US Capitol and has a large dome.  Unlike most, this one is a copy of another state's capitol: Montana's.  Unlike most, this capitol was built after electricity, in 1910; they're having the 100th anniversary celebrations next week.  Unlike most, when they renovated the building fairly recently they didn't install air conditioning throughout the building; I guess it's cool enough in South Dakota they didn't think it was worthwhile.  They do have air conditioning in the offices.  Unlike the majority I've been to, there was no security at all although you're no longer allowed in the Supreme Court or on the House or Senate floors.  This change was made after a fairly recent vandalism incident.  And, unlike the three I've been to recently, this one was very quiet; I guess the kids are out of school now and the school trips have stopped.

The Rotunda was very nice.  My timing was good; they just cleaned the stained glass dome last week.  The House and Senate chambers and one of the stairways also had stained glass.  The floors are terrazzo tile.  There is some nice stonework in the building but the columns in the Rotunda were made using the Scagliola technique, a way of making something appear to be marble, to cut costs.

The self-guided tour booklet says that the current estimated value of the capitol is nearly $58,000,000.  That's a lot of money, but on one of the other capitol tours I've been in recently (I'm fairly sure it was Illinois ) the guide said the current value of their capitol was $2,000,000,000.  That's quite a difference.

After touring the capitol I headed for Bismarck.  I stopped in Linton, ND, about 10 miles north from the birthplace of Lawrence Welk.  Normally, when I go to the center of the country I feel as though I've gotten back to America - everyone speaks English, they're polite and considerate - it's a pleasant change after visiting a lot of the country.  Well, the speaks English part isn't  necessarily true around here.  There are, or at least were, a lot of towns where people grow up speaking German and possibly some other European languages.  I haven't been to those towns but I did meet a few people who had grown up in them.
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