Arizona State Capitol
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Arizona’s territorial capital bounced between Prescott and Tucson before finally settling in Phoenix in 1889. In an effort to prove to the federal government that Arizona was ready for statehood, the territorial legislature constructed the capitol building between 1898 and 1901.
The design, based on a rejected concept for the Mississippi State Capitol, was modified by legislators, who scaled back its size and added features appropriate for Arizona’s desert climate, like thick masonry walls for insulation and ventilating windows.They also painted the dome copper as a tribute to the mineral that served as an essential economic resource.
As the state grew, so did the demands on the building. Part-time Arizona resident Frank Lloyd Wright submitted plans in 1957 for a massive Arizona Capitol Complex, which would have transferred the legislature, governor, and Supreme Court from downtown to Papago Park—at a whopping cost of $5 million. It was immediately rejected. (You can see one of the proposed 125-foot-tall spires for the project at Scottsdale and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevards in North Scottsdale.)
Instead, the state House and Senate were relocated into bunker-like buildings on either side of the capitol in 1960, and the governor moved to the Executive Tower behind the capitol.
A renovation in 1981 restored the building to its original look from 1912, the year of Arizona’s statehood, and the dome was finally given a proper copper plating: 4.8 million pennies-worth, a fitting number for the 48th state. That same year, the Arizona Capitol Museum (1700 W. Washington St., 602/926-3620, www.lib.az.us/museum, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., closed Sat.–Sun., free) was opened, allowing visitors to see the old House and Senate chambers, offices of the governor, and exhibitions about Arizona’s history. There is also a small display chronicling the USS Arizona.
The rapidly growing state is contemplating another overhaul in honor of its centennial in 2012. Many are calling for a radical transformation of the buildings and the adjacent Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, though tight budgets likely will delay those plans.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition