HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Capitol Building is a well-known landmark in Harrisburg and the whole Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its signature dome stands 254 feet above the city of Harrisburg.

According to the PA Capitol Preservation Committee, the building was designed by Joseph Huston of Philadelphia. Huston was 36 years old when he designed the building. Huston planned every detail of the structure, all the way down to the custom-designed furniture and clocks. Huston wanted the building to be a “palace of art.”

The building was completed in the summer of 1906 but was not officially dedicated until Oct. 4. 1906. The dedication was attended by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was the ceremony’s keynote speaker. The Capitol Preservation Committee estimates that it cost around $4.5 million back in 1906 to build the Capitol, with furnishings for the interior costing an additional $9 million.

Up close photo of the dome of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Huston designed the structure in the style of the American Renaissance. This style pulls from classic European styles of architecture. Because there are numerous European styles, each room of the building has a different ‘theme’.

  • House Chamber- Italian Renaissance
  • Senate Chamber- French Renaissance
  • Supreme Court Chamber- Greco Roman
  • Governor’s Reception Room- Tudor

The lantern located at the top of the dome stands around 254 feet above the baseline elevation of the first floor. The statue of the Commonwealth sits above this lantern, bringing the tallest point of the building to 272 feet. The statue, named Commonwealth, was hoisted into place in 1905. The statue was sculpted by Roland Hinton Perry and is based on a sketch from Huston. The statue was restored in 1998.

Shown is “Commonwealth,” a gilded bronze statue on the Pennsylvania Capitol building. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The dome itself weighs 42 million pounds and is made of a steel skeleton, covered in concrete and brick. The dome, according to the Capitol’s website, was inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. When completed in 1906, the dome was the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for 80 years.

Some if the 48 dome portholes are shown in this photo. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The building’s exterior is covered in Vermont granite and the roof is composed of green-glazed terracotta tile. Throughout the building, Huston made sure to include bits and pieces of Pennsylvania’s achievements in labor, industry, and history.

Inside the dome is the Rotunda. This is where many public forums are held. According to the book The Pennsylvania Capitol, the rotunda features 48 portholes and is lit by nearly 40,000 lights.

There are quotes wrapped around the rotunda. These are quotes from the state’s founder, William Penn. As quoted by the Capitol Preservation Committee, they are:

Shown is the rotunda at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
  • There may be room there for such a holy experiment.”
  • “For the nations want a precedent.”
  • “And my God will make it the seed of a nation.”
  • “That an example may be set up to the nations.”
  • “That we may do the thing that is truly wise and just.”

Guided tours of the building are offered every half hour Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Weekends and most holidays tours are offered at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., & 3:00 p.m. More info can be found here.