Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Day Trip to the Old Iowa Capital...

Amid watching all of the horrific news about what happened at the Boston Marathon, my jaw dropped yesterday.  A bunch of questions popped into my mind...Is violence becoming part of our society?  Or has it always been there and it was just shown in other forms?  And what can we do to safe guard ourselves against such things happening?  I guess we could avoid large groups and stay safely in our homes but then what happens to our sense of community?  Are we to question what our neighbors are up to and always be questioning their motives?  And where would all of that distrust and separation possibly lead to? Well, one only may need to look at the Middle East to get the answer to that one.  Are we all leading that way? Maybe I’m just over reacting to all of this but I still can’t help but wonder what we should be doing…
Photo- The Old Iowa State Capital on the University of Iowa Campus.
Meanwhile back here in Iowa, last week when the weather was a balmy 50 degrees and the sun was shining I took a day trip to the Old Iowa State Capital in Iowa City.  The Old Capital with its gold covered dome which is a topped with flags sits prominently in the middle of the University of Iowa campus.  On the day I was there, students were sitting on its steps; some relaxing while others were buried in books studying, while still others were walking around enjoying a day of sunshine.  In general the area seemed like a place of openness, happiness, and hope; but that could have been the sunny day talking to me.
Photo- The view from the Old Capital steps.
I will say that there’s quite the commanding view of Iowa City from the back steps of the Old Capital.  There has been a great deal of growth and construction taking place in the area.  A great deal of that construction is rebuilding after the BIG flood of 2008 that took place in the area.  That BIG flood happened along the Cedar River and hit both Iowa City and my hometown of Cedar Rapids very hard, but more about that in upcoming posts.

The Old Capital actually served as the State Capital of Iowa for a very short time frame.  It was finished being built in 1842, when Iowa was still just a territory.  Four years later, Iowa became the 29th state and it very soon became obvious that the Old Capital building was not large enough to serve as a Capital.  Meanwhile, it was decided that the Capital should also be more centrally located in Iowa.  Thus, a location was found in Des Moines, Iowa and the present day state capital building was finished in 1857.  Yes, if you do the math the Old State Capital only served as the state capital of Iowa for 11 years.
Photo- Iowa's earlier currency on display.
After those 11 years, the Old Capital building became the first permanently owned building by the State University of Iowa which later got name changed to the University of Iowa.   Until the mid-1970’s, classes took place and offices of the University were in this building.  But after a while, the University of Iowa outgrew this capital building too. 
Photo- The central staircase in the Old Iowa Capital building.
In July 1976, it was reopened as a restored National Historic Landmark and served as a state museum.  But the history didn’t stop there.  On November 20, 2001, contractors using open flame torches and heat guns on the cupola supporting the building's gold dome accidentally set the cupola on fire. Ooopps! Thankfully the actual fire was limited to the cupola area due to a concrete slab that had been installed during a 1920’s renovation but there was tons of damage done by water to douse those flames.   A new dome was built on the building in February 2003 and the building was restored and reopened to the public in 2006.

The building was designed with large windows to allow for light and there were wood stoves installed in each of the four corners of the building.  Later, they discovered those four stoves were not enough to combat the cold Iowa winter and they installed more stoves in the halls where pipes had been installed throughout the walls to help circulate the heat in the building.  This was years before duct work had been created and I guess you could say it was one of the pioneers to the idea of doing something like that.  During the cold of the winter and the height of summer heat, cloth covered shutters and wool curtains helped.  In the 1920’s there was a switch to steam heat in the building.  Sorry, I find this fascinating and I guess that’s due to working in the heating and air-conditioning business for 11 years of my life.
Photo- Old Civil War guns on display in the downstairs of the Old Capital.
Downstairs in a small exhibit hall, there was a Civil War Exhibit and it was interesting going through and reading about the Union’s 22 that were based out of Iowa at the time.  The 22nd was instrumental in the battle of Vicksburg and amid all of the guns, swords, and artifacts there were stories of University of Iowa students that had served their part in the Civil War, both for the North and the South.  It was a very interesting exhibit.
Photo- Part of the restored Library room in the Old Capital building.

On the main floor area there are offices that have been restored.  Some of those offices are restored to the time when the Old Capital was an active Capital building and other offices that served as offices for the president of the University of Iowa.  There’s also a room that was used as a library for the University at one time. 
Photo- Herkys' signed by the freshman classes in the upper foyer area.

Upstairs in the foyer area, are four large white Herkys’ which are covered with signatures and stand on dated pedestals.  The Herky is the school’s mascot.  The signatures are from the University freshman who sign when they start attending.  The dates on the pedestals are the four most recent years.  It’s an interesting tradition of the University of Iowa.  I forgot to ask where these Herkys’ go when each year as those freshman graduate from the University.  Is there a Herky Heaven?
Photo- The House Chambers in the Old Capital Building.

Also, up on the upper level is a where the restored House Chamber and the Senate Chamber were.  The House Chamber serves as a museum area and is preserved where the Chamber appears to be used for possible meetings and other events for the University.  In fact, there was student playing a piano while I was there and getting feedback from a teacher.  I had wondered where all that wonderful piano music was coming from while I was touring the building.
Photo- The elegant Senate Chambers where the piano music was wafting from during my tour.

No comments:

Post a Comment