Yet another state capitol

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


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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I went to the Washington State Capitol today.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate.  I visited the Washington State Legislative Building on the Capitol Campus.  Like most capitols, this is a neo-classical building with a central dome modeled on the US Capitol.  This is just one of the buildings on the Capitol Campus that were designed and built around the same time.  Most of the other buildings are the same style and use the same limestone for the exterior although the Governor's Mansion, which is next door and had been built previously, is a Georgian-style mansion.  The Supreme Court building is across a courtyard from the Legislative Building and was never housed in the same building, which is unusual.  In most states the Supreme Court started out in the capitol although as governments have grown they frequently were the first to go but Washington separated them right from the start.

They claim that the Legislative Building is the fourth-tallest masonry dome in the world behind St. Peter's in the Vatican, St. Paul's in London and St. Isaac's in St. Petersburg.  I haven't been able to independently verify this claim.  There are many ways of measuring the height of a dome: from the floor under it to the underside of the dome, from the ground at the main doorway to the top of the building, etc.  I'm not sure which method they used.  They give a height of 287 feet.  The Duomo in Florence is listed as 375 feet.  I can't explain why it's not considered larger.

At any rate, it is a large dome.  Since it was completed, Olympia has had three significant earthquakes.  They had to replace the cupola after the first in 1949.  The second in 1965 also caused significant damage.  After both earthquakes and, again, in 1975 they made changes to the structure to make it more earthquake-proof.  None of these changes involved anchoring the dome to the supporting drum.  During the 2001 earthquake, in spite of its size, the dome moved relative to the rest of the building.  Some of the supporting columns moved up to three inches.  In 2004 they completed repairs and renovations that included anchoring the dome to the rest of the building.

The legislators in Washington work a lot more than those in some states.  They are in session 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years.  For comparison, in North Dakota the legislators are in session for 80 days every other year, in South Dakota they meet for 40 days in odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years and in Montana sessions are no more than 90 days every other year.

After taking a tour of the building and spending some time taking pictures inside I went out to get pictures.  I was aware that I was the the right day of the week for the Governor's Mansion tours but I couldn't find anyone who could tell me the times.  When I walked by the gate of the mansion I found out the last tour was in less than 15 minutes.  That didn't give me enough time to get back to feed the parking meter and to find the office where I could sign up for a tour so I just finished taking pictures outside and then headed for Port Angeles. 

When I got to Port Angeles I called around to the hotels listed on my GPS to check prices.  Everyone had rooms available, several started negotiating a price and many of the numbers were no longer in service.  It's a much different situation from North Dakota and eastern Montana where the hotels were full of oil workers and Wyoming where they were full of highway workers due to the stimulus bill.  They depend on tourism here, which is down about 30%.  In spite of that, the hotels weren't particularly cheap.

Tomorrow I'll be going to Olympic National Park.
 
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