Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside the Dome: An Insider's View of the State Capitol

In the Sept/Oct issue of Texas Architect magazine, Art Levy* recounts his recent “tour guides only” dome tour, scheduled right before another restoration project would close access to the dome through the rest of this year. Below is an excerpt from his Backpage article and a few additional photos he shared with Texas Architect.

As a tour guide at the Texas State Capitol, I’m constantly asked, “Are we going to go up to the very top?” The answer is always an unfortunate “No.” It pains me to have to quash such naked curiosity. We all cherish the thought of scaling and exploring heights, from a kid climbing trees to the adventurer conquering the tallest mountains. So it’s only natural that people should ask that question within five minutes of starting a tour. Skip the history, please: we want to go up there. 

Not too long ago, the Capitol conducted regular dome tours, but after the completion of a major renovation in 1995, accessibility and safety concerns shut the tours down for good. Yet in May, I had the opportunity to join an exclusive, “tour guides only” dome tour. Just getting up there is quite an ordeal, requiring elevators and tight, creaky staircases that spiral 218 feet above the rotunda floor to a small balcony. (
Read the entire article in TA's 2010 Sept/Oct issue.)

 Graffiti dating back to 1936 that adorns the inside walls.

Structural elements in Elijah Myers' double-dome system. 

*When he’s not guiding tours of the State Capitol, Art Levy writes radio scripts for Texas Music Matters on KUT 90.5 FM in Austin.

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