Minnesota State Capitol

The Minnesota State Capitol is the seat of government for the U.S. state of Minnesota, in its capital city of Saint Paul. It houses the Minnesota Senate, Minnesota House of Representatives, the office of the Attorney General and the office of the Governor. The building also includes a chamber for the Minnesota Supreme Court, although court activities usually take place in the neighboring Minnesota Judicial Center.

Minnesota State capitol building
Minnesota State Capitol 2017.jpg
The Minnesota State Capitol from the south
Minnesota State Capitol is located in Minnesota
Minnesota State Capitol
Minnesota State Capitol is located in the United States
Minnesota State Capitol
Location75 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Coordinates44°57′19″N 93°6′8″W / 44.95528°N 93.10222°W / 44.95528; -93.10222Coordinates: 44°57′19″N 93°6′8″W / 44.95528°N 93.10222°W / 44.95528; -93.10222
ArchitectCass Gilbert
Architectural styleItalian Renaissance, Beaux-Arts
NRHP reference No.72000681 [1]
Added to NRHPFebruary 23, 1972

The building is set in a landscaped campus. Various monuments are to its sides and front. Behind, a bridge spans University Avenue, and in front others were later added over the sunken roadway of Interstate 94, thus preserving the sight lines. Set near the crest of a hill, from the Capitol steps a panoramic view of downtown Saint Paul is presented.


Minnesota's first capitol

The building was built by Butler-Ryan Construction and designed by Cass Gilbert and modeled after the larger Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. However, like all capitols with domes in the US it is also inspired by the idea of domed capitols originating with the United States Capitol dome. Work began on the capitol in 1896, its corner-stone laid July 27, 1898, and construction was completed in 1905. It is the third building to serve this purpose: the first capitol was destroyed by fire in 1881, and the second was completed in 1883, but was considered to be too small almost immediately.

Above the southern entrance to the building is a gilded quadriga called The Progress of the State which was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and Edward Clark Potter. It was completed and raised to the roof of the capitol in 1906. The four horses represent the power of nature: earth, wind, fire and water. The women leading the horses symbolize civilization, and the man on the chariot represents prosperity.[2] In 1994 and 1995, the statues underwent a restoration procedure which included replacing the gold leaf on the figures. A sphere perched above the capitol dome had similar treatment.

Any classical dome built since Michelangelo's must expect to be compared to it, and Gilbert's dome is a frank homage, with interesting differences. His drawings show that he originally planned a wider drum and, correspondingly, a more massive dome. The smaller dome as built is smaller than St. Peter's and has a simplified design: single columns round the upper lantern instead of double ones, for instance. The ribs on the capitol dome are less pronounced than those on St. Peter's, but they are still visually apparent. Gilbert knew that St. Peter's dome was on the edge of being unstable: it had cracked and had to be reinforced. His engineer for this project, Gunvald Aus, bound the brick dome in reinforcing steel bands, and Gilbert crowned the paired columns round the drum (which act as buttresses to counter the dome's weight) with additional stone.

1906 photograph of the Governor's Reception with artwork commissioned for that room.

The central block under the dome needed three entrances, and Gilbert avoided creating visual references to a triumphal arch, which would have been inappropriate in its position. Equally, he managed to avoid any reference to a palace block that would have been offensive to Minnesotans. However, Gilbert drew ire for choosing stone from Georgia rather than native Minnesota stone. A compromise was eventually made where the base of the building and interior spaces used varieties of native stone, including Kasota stone, and the rare Minnesota Pipestone used by Native Americans for their peace pipes. Upon completion, the exterior and interior of the building drew praise, leading to requests for Gilbert to design capitol buildings for other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas and other notable structures.

The capitol cost US$4.5 million at the beginning of the 20th century. It opened its doors to the public for the first time on January 2, 1905. A hundred years later, the building's estimated value was $400 million.

Most days of the week the building is open for individual visits, guided tours are given free of charge by professional docents from the Minnesota Historical Society hourly and last about 45 mins.[3] Upon entering the building by the south door, one is below the central dome. A large star, symbolizing Minnesota's motto, "The Star of the North", is directly beneath the apex. Various portraits of state governors, and flags captured by Minnesota's regiments during the American Civil War, are on display. Paintings showing some of the related battles can be seen in the governor's outer office. Much of the building is open to the public, although one interesting sight is only rarely accessible. This is the cloak room behind the House of Representatives chamber.

The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.


The building after renovation

The Minnesota State Capitol underwent a comprehensive restoration project from 2013 to 2017, the first major renovation since the building first opened.[4] Work began in 2013, with the project estimated at that time to cost $241 million, funded via a series of appropriations made by the Minnesota legislature.[5] The project repaired and modernized deteriorating building systems, restored the building to Cass Gilbert's original architectural vision, increased public meeting space (including a new classroom for the Minnesota Historical Society to host school groups and provide information about the building), updated life safety systems and improved accessibility for people with disabilities.[6]

During renovation, more than 30,000 pieces of marble were restored or replaced.[7] The amount of public space in the building was doubled to nearly 40,000 square feet, with a number of new public spaces opened to the public for reservation and use year round.[8]

The project also included a restoration of the capitol's many works of fine art, which prompted discussions over some paintings in the building that feature controversial depictions of American Indians. A series of public input meetings were held around the state to gather feedback and consider options for new policies regarding art in the renovated building.[9] When the building reopened, two of these paintings were relocated to a public space in the building, while others remained in place.[10]

The Christopher Columbus Monument after the statue was removed in June 2020

The renovation forced the House and Senate to hold a special session in the nearby State Office Building in 2015. During the regular 2016 session, the Senate met in the newly completed Senate Office Building, with the capitol open for only limited access to the House chamber during the session.[11]

By the time of its completion in 2017, the total cost of the renovation project reached about $310 million.[12] The bulk of construction was completed by the start of the 2017 legislative session in January.[13] The project was officially completed in August 2017, at which point all of the building's newly renovated spaces opened to the public.[14]

A three-day grand opening celebration took place on August 11, 12, and 13, 2017.[15][16] The grand opening celebration featured a ribbon cutting ceremony with state and local leaders, panel conversations with notable Minnesotans (including former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve), a beer tasting event with more than 25 Minnesota craft brewers, and musical performances from Minnesota bands Poliça and Cloud Cult.[17]

On June 10, 2020, members of the American Indian Movement torn down the Christopher Columbus statue, dedicated in 1931, located outside the state capitol building and was not a planned renovation. Planning on restoring the statue is ongoing.[18][19]


Memorials in the rotundaEdit

Monuments on the groundsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 15, 2006.
  2. ^ "Progress of the State (Quadriga)". Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  3. ^ https://www.mnhs.org/capitol. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "The Minnesota State Capitol restoration project, explained". Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Minnesota Capitol: It's crumbling, but what a price tag". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol Restoration Project – Guiding Principles". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Restoring the Glory: A balancing act for architects on Capitol restoration". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol Grand Opening Celebration – About the Restoration". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol Restoration Project – Art Subcommittee". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Bitter fight over controversial Capitol art finally ends". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  11. ^ "After controversy, new Minnesota Senate Office Building finally opens – Twin Cities". Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol Grand Opening Celebration – About the Restoration". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  13. ^ TEGNA. "First look: Minnesota's renovated capitol". Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Restored Minnesota State Capitol re-opens to the public". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  15. ^ Fitzgerald, Kilat (August 14, 2017). "Minnesota state capitol celebrates grand opening after restoration". La Crosse Tribune. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  16. ^ West, Tom (August 19, 2017). "Notes from a visit to our restored State Capitol". dairylandpeach.com. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  17. ^ "Minnesota State Capitol Grand Opening Celebration – Events Schedule". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  18. ^ https://www.fox9.com/news/group-tears-down-columbus-statue-outside-minnesota-state-capitol
  19. ^ https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-news/columbus-statue-pulled-down-outside-minnesota-state-capitol

External linksEdit