Exploring the Oklahoma State Capitol Building

The true symbol of Oklahoma is round back to the rear of the state capitol building. Between the parking area and back entrance is the Phillips 66 oil derrick. Black gold was once the life’s blood of Oklahoma and the oil boom was the biggest thing to ever happen to the state until perhaps the Thunder reached the NBA Finals. Fortunes were made and petroleum giants Phillips 66 and Conoco were born. The capitol building sits atop the Oklahoma City oil field.

Oklahoma was admitted to the union in 1907 and Guthrie served as the first state capitol. In 1910, an election was held to decide if Guthrie or rapidly growing Oklahoma City should be capitol. Guthrie lost. Ground broke on the capitol building on July 20, 1914. The 650-room Greek-Roman neo-classical design is by Solomon Layton and S. Wemyss Smith and constructed of white Indian limestone. The base is Oklahoma pink and white granite. The capitol was completed without a dome on June 30, 1917. For numerous reasons a dome was not added until 2002. The dome is topped by the 5,980 pound statue “The Guardian” by sculptor Enoch Kelly Haney.

Those entering the front entrance will pass through Centennial Plaza which relates state history in 28 Oklahoma red granite rosettes. Cowboys and Indians are closely identified with Oklahoma history and represented by the sculptures “Tribute to the Range Riders” and “As Long as the Waters Flow.” The statehouse is a typical five-level affair housing the State Senate, House of representatives and State Supreme Court as well as Governor and other official offices. Staircases are marble.

The centerpiece of the 1st floor rotunda is the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma which is a giant five-pointed star in the floor. There is an exhibit on principle architect Layton with original architectural plans and tools. Portraits of famous Oklahomans are scattered throughout the building and the 1st floor features baseball great Mickey Mantle. The place is practically an art gallery as an extensive collection of works by Oklahoma artists are displayed.

More artworks abound on the 2nd floor. The Governor’s art gallery features rotating local works. Two large paintings represent state flavor with “The Magic of Petroleum” and “First Coal Production at McAlester and the Katy Railroad” both by Wayne Cooper.There is a nine-foot bronze replica of “The Guardian.” The Hall of Governors are busts of all state governors. The 2nd floor rotunda is dominated by four theme paintings titled “Visions of the Land-The Centennial Suite” by Tulsa artist Wilson Hurley. The balustrade handrail and balusters are made of local alabaster. Bannister pillars and the floor are Georgia marble.

There is nothing to see on the 3rd floor. Ascending the Grand Staircase is an experience in marble. The 52 steps are Alabama marble and walls Oklahoma marble. Other marble is from Vermont. The 4th floor rotunda sports the best view of the new dome’s interior design which was patterned after the state wildflower gaillardia. The top is a stained glass state seal rising 190 feet.

The abundance of artwork continues with the primary pieces being four huge murals by Charles Banks Wilson located just below the dome. The murals depict different eras of Oklahoma history from 1541 to 1908. There is an etched glass mural “The Spirit of the 45th.” The series of bronze medallions is an original by Enoch Kelly Haney. The old flag on display is an original from Guthrie. Surrounding the rotunda are life-size portraits of notable Oklahomans including favorite son Will Rogers, folk singer Woody Guthrie and legendary athlete Jim Thorpe.

If you thought the art halted on the 5th floor, think again though the number of paintings is less. The most noteworthy is “Flight of Spirit” depicting five real iife Oklahoma women who became renown prima ballerinas. Restoration has revealed some interesting aspects such as stained glass skylight panels. Original windows were uncovered. Ceiling fans are original. Returning outside, visitors can see what was flat for 85 years is now the massive dome.