The Capitol of Missouri, situated within the capital city of Jefferson City, is home to the legislative and executive branches of Missouri today and the Missouri General Assembly. Located at 201 West Capitol Avenue, it is the third Capitol for Missouri after the first two were demolished following damaging fires. Tracy and Swartwout, an NYC-based architectural firm, designed the domed building, characterized by the ovular shape today, in 1917. The dome rises 238 feet tall, topped with a bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. It rises above the bluffs of the Missouri River, solidifying itself as the first view of Jefferson City for travelers coming from the north.
In addition to the state government bodies, the Capitol also houses the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, and various administrative agencies. The building itself is registered on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property in the Missouri State Capitol Historic District.
History of the Missouri State Capitol
The present-day Capitol, which was completed in 1917 and occupied in 1918, is the third Capitol in Jefferson City for the state of Missouri and the sixth overall Capitol building in state history. The first seat of state government was housed in the Mansion House, situated at Third and Vine Streets in St. Louis, with the second one residing in the Missouri Hotel, located at Main and Morgan Streets in St. Charles. For a short period of time, St. Charles has designated the capital of the state until 1821.
It was decided that the capital should be placed towards the middle of the state, making it convenient for representatives to travel to work. More specifically, they wanted it to be located in the Missouri River within 40 miles of the mouth of Osage. Surveyors set out to find a location they found suitable. Jefferson City’s location was decided because it afforded the best view of the Missouri River of any place available within the state.
The first Jefferson City Capitol was made of brick, measuring about 40 by 60 feet. It took 2-years to complete. It was called the Governor’s House and State Capitol at the time. Burned down in 1837, the site is now home to the Missouri Governor’s Mansion today. The second Jefferson City Capitol, located on the present-day site, was completed in 1840, burning down in 1911 after lightning strikes.
Immediately calling for a budget for what would be the third Jefferson City Capitol and the one we know and love today, the state miscalculated the revenue projections and collected more money than necessary. That explains the high caliber of sculptures and artwork visible within the Capitol today.
Design of the Missouri State Capitol
The Capitol is symmetrical in plan, giving equal symbolic weight to both the House and Senate. The style makes many historical references to the Washington D.C. Capitol and Greek and Roman architecture. The typical column capital is a unique variation on the Classic Corinthian Capital, replacing the acanthus leaves with flowers.