A visit to the State Capitol building in Lansing is a must for all Michiganians. Not only is the Michigan Capitol a beautiful building, it was designed by Elijah E. Myers, one of America’s greatest architects.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1832, Elijah Myers studied law, then carpentry, before apprenticing with a friend who was an architect. Myers started his own architectural firm in Springfield, Illinois, after serving in the Union army as an engineer during the Civil War. His first
important commission was an Illinois county courthouse. In 1872, Myers’ life changed dramatically when he won the commission to design the new Michigan State Capitol.
Myers based his design for the Michigan Capitol on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by adopting two important featuresâ”€a tall dome and balanced wings. When the Michigan Capitol opened in 1879, it set the standard for state capitols and similar public buildings. Myers went on to design capitol buildings in Texas, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. He also designed many other buildings in Michigan. Some have been demolished (1875, Lansing High School, 1878, Eastern Michigan Asylum for the Insane and
1888, Grand Rapids City Hall), while others survive (1888, Central United Methodist Church in Lansing, 1892, Stockbridge Town Hall and 1902, Howell Carnegie District Library). By the time of his death in
1909 (and subsequent burial in Detroit), Elijah Myers had become one of the most successful and important architects of public buildings in America.
A century after the Michigan Capitol opened it needed a makeover. The walls and ceilings, which had been carefully hand-painted to create detailed designs, needed repainting. From 1989 to 1992, the Capitol underwent a complete restoration. It was returned it to its former beauty and ready to serve Michiganians for many more years.
Each year, thousands of people visit the Michigan Capitol. Recently, a fourth-grader who visited the Capitol said, â€œOur class had a great time on the tour, thank you for the best time of my life.â€
The Capitol is open for free tours five days a week. Guides answer questions about the restored Capitol and state government. Tours include the building’s public areas and the House of Representatives and Senate galleries.
The Michigan State Capitol is one of many great Michigan attractions featured in Michigan History magazine. For information call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.
Photo credit: Senate Chambers, taken by Balthazar Korab.
For more photos check out this flickr slideshow!