North Toward Dome

From the deep recesses of the basement to the fourth floor and beyond (off-limits to the likes of me and you), there are lots of cool things to see at the Capitol that the uniformed guides won’t show you. My highly subjective tour of the state’s grandest building starts … now.

BACK IN THE FIFTIES, WHEN TEXAS was still a Democratic state and the party’s conservative and liberal wings fought bitter battles over issues like segregation and labor unions, it was often said that the Capitol, with its high ceilings and tall columns, was “built for giants but inhabited by pygmies.” That witticism long ago passed into oblivion, but it’s worth resurrecting for its architectural rather than political significance. Erected in the 1880’s to inspire the people’s representatives to be worthy of their workplace, the Capitol is our grandest public building. Its pink-granite exterior is rough and uneven and unyielding, rather like Texas itself, and its interior was meticulously restored a decade ago to its early-twentieth-century appearance. Now in its 119th year of service, it still fulfills the prediction of Judge A. W. Terrell at the dedication ceremony in 1888: “Whenever, in all time, a son of Texas shall behold its vast proportions, pride will come around him like a mantle and crystallize devotion to his State.”

As the Texas Legislature meets in regular session for the eightieth time, tens of thousands of Texans will descend upon the Capitol to watch our lawmakers at work. Some

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