Idaho Statehouse Built 1905

Governor Dirk & Patricia Kempthorne - Honoring public service in the great state of Idaho
"If you seek the promise of a bright future, look into the eyes of a child" - Inaugural address 1999

“The great white light of conscience must be allowed to shine and by its interior illumination make clear the path of duty.” John E. Tourtellotte, the architect of the second Idaho State Capitol, had this concept in mind for Idaho’s new statehouse. It was 1905, a time when reformers were reminding everyone that governance in the United States should be practiced from a moral center.

The building houses the legislative chambers and offices of the Senate (west wing), House of Representatives (east wing), governor and other state officers, and several public hearing rooms. The Classical style of the building is a statement of balance: a graceful dome rising at the center, the symmetric wings extending to the sides. The south facade is the principal entrance, inviting a grand welcome for dignified entry as well as a setting for rallies, ceremonies and protests. Inside, Tourtellotte arranged for shafts and skylights to direct sunlight to floors, walls and pillars made of marble and other smooth stone ready to reflect it and illuminate the environment.

Befitting the weighty reality of American democracy, the Statehouse features many symbols of our national and state history. An eagle, wings spread wide, tops the dome. The Great Seal of the State of Idaho is depicted on the floor of the central rotunda. Elsewhere, a gold-plated statue of a gallant George Washington astride a horse honors our first president. A replica of the Liberty Bell hangs in front of the building for all to ring.

After 1905, the Statehouse was modernized many times: for upgraded plumbing, overhead fire sprinklers and geothermal heating. However, false ceilings installed to hide new electrical cable also darkened many light shafts. The space its occupants needed became ever more cramped. In 2005, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne noted the building’s deteriorating mortar, cracks in the marble, grimy eagle atop the dome and a generally dim patina overall. He determined to refresh the building and fit it for its future in the new century.

The entire building underwent profound restoration and rehabilitation. Light shafts were re-opened. Working space was expanded by adding “atrium wings” built below the Statehouse lawns, preserving the integrity of the original structure. Glass skylights again reaffirmed Idaho’s ideal for enlightened governance.

Tour the “Peoples’ House!” A pamphlet, “Idaho State Capitol, Capitol of Light,” is available at the Capitol gift shop to guide you.

Read more about the Idaho Statehouse.

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