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Welcome to the Legislative Building


In this guided tour you can navigate the site with the arrows either forward or back. You can also use the navigation index at the top right corner.

Links to further information, including primary sources and research material, are available at your fingertips.  Take a quick look at the Washington State Capitol or use this site as a resource for your research paper—either way, we are glad you are here.

Enjoy the Washington State Capitol!

The Legislative Building

The largest on the Capitol Campus, the Legislative Building, stands at 287 feet tall. The structure is the tallest masonry dome in North America. Built between 1922-1928 for $7.4 million, the building is the crown jewel of the Capitol Campus. Funds to construct the building were raised through timber sales on state lands, gifted by the federal government upon statehood. The Legislature still continues to dedicate this revenue to campus buildings.

Legislators did not occupy the Legislative Building until January 1929. Commemorating Washington’s admission to the union as the 42nd state, 42 granite steps at the North Portico lead into the Legislative Building. The granite was quarried in Index, Washington while the building’s “skin” is sandstone, quarried in Wilkeson, Washington.

  • See other Legislative buildings of Washington's past.
  • Read the description of the Legislative building written by the architects before it was built.

Exterior

The Legislative Building has many design elements and influences from the past. The architects, Walter Wilder and Harry White, were influenced by the City Beautiful movement at the end of the 19th century. The City Beautiful movement was an outgrowth, in large part, of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The movement stressed a return to older European elements, a call for balance, symmetry, order and the depiction of an ideal city.

The building’s overall design elements hark back to ancient Greece and Rome. The lower portion of the building is reminiscent of a Greek temple. The upper portion has a magnificent dome, a building technique that the Romans perfected.

The carved stone of the Legislative Building is both more numerous and decorative than any other building in the group. The north and south entrances feature columns with Corinthian capitals, which are mimicked by the columns on the colonnade. Columns with Doric capitals complete the north and south fašade. Anthemion cresting tops the main roofline and pediment of the north entrance. One mini-dome rests at each corner of the drum, just below the colonnade and dome proper. These mini-domes feature intricate carvings and decoration.

Entrance

Entry to the 250,000-square-foot structure is gained through three sets of massive bronze doors with bas-relief representations of early Washington state history, including a sailing vessel, logging activity, natural landscapes and the Territorial Capitol.

Gazing up from this location the viewer will find intricately carved sandstone rosettes and Corinthian capitals.

Foyer

The foyer is the beginning point for public tours of the Legislative Building, public tours begin at 10 a.m. and continue through 3 p.m. daily.

During the school year several hundred students visit the Capitol Campus each day. State Capitol Tours offers education tours and a hands-on experience of the three branches of government -- legislative, judicial and executive. Student groups spend an average of 3.5 hours exploring the campus.

Two statues grace the foyer of the Legislative Building— Marcus Whitman and Mother Joseph. In 1999, the Legislature recognized the contributions of these two pioneers by establishing Mother Joseph Day (April 16) and Marcus Whitman Day (September 4), the fruition of a campaign led by a sixth-grade EXCEL class of 27 students from the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington.

  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

Marcus Whitman

Marcus Whitman (1802—1847) was a medical missionary and early pioneer of the Oregon Territory. He made great contributions to state history through the establishment of missions. He also created opportunities for more settlers to migrate westward. Whitman led the first large party of wagon trains along the Oregon Trail, establishing it as a viable route for the thousands of emigrants who used the trail in the following decade. Whitman’s mission site, established in 1836, is located near present day Walla Walla. Whitman College and Whitman County also honor his legacy in Washington history. Designed by Avard Fairbanks and dedicated in 1953, the statue of Marcus Whitman is one of Washington’s selections to appear in the Hall of Statues in Washington, D.C.; Mother Joseph is the state’s second selection by the Legislature in 1980.

  • Read more about the Marcus Whitman statue
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

Mother Joseph

Mother Joseph (1823-1902) is remembered for her tremendous contributions to the Pacific Northwest through her work with children, the infirm, aged and mentally ill. In 1856 Mother Joseph was chosen to lead a group of five missionaries from Montreal to the Pacific Northwest Territories of the United States. The five nuns incorporated in 1859 as the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence in the Territory of Washington, one of the oldest existing corporations in Washington. Over the next 46 years, she designed and/or supervised construction of more than 30 schools, orphanages and hospitals, including Olympia’s first hospital. She is recognized as one of the first architects in Washington Territory. Mother Joseph also initiated the popular Providence "ticket," a pioneer form of medical insurance, which for $10 per year guaranteed full hospital coverage for its owners.

Her statue was created by Felix W. de Weldon, who also sculpted the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D. C., which commemorates the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.

  • Read more about the Mother Joseph statue
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

Office of the Governor

As the primary elected official of Washington, the governor has numerous responsibilities, duties and powers:

  • Communicate the affairs and condition of the state to the Legislature
  • On extraordinary occasions, convene the Legislature by proclamation
  • Be commander-in-chief of the state military
  • Ability to pardon as prescribed by law
  • Veto powers; every act which passes the Legislature shall be, before it becomes a law, presented to the governor

  • View the Constitution
  • View the Governor’s Web Site
  • See Past and Present Governors’ Signatures
  • Past Governors of Washington State

Governor’s Conference Room

The Governor’s Conference Room is used for a variety of purposes. News conferences, bill signings and gubernatorial meetings are the majority of assemblies in this room. The room has a large conference table and the governor’s chair, the tallest of 14, is at the head of the table on the side closest to the viewer. Fredrick and Nelson window treatments, made of velvet with a hand-stitched Seal of the State of Washington in gold thread, complement the room.

Office of the Lieutenant Governor

Under the state constitution, the lieutenant governor is the presiding officer of the Washington State Senate and performs the duties of the governor when the governor is out of the state or otherwise unable to serve. The lieutenant governor is charged with a number of additional duties, both by statute and by personal interest based on the background and experience of the incumbent. The Office of the Lieutenant Governor supports and coordinates these numerous activities in a number of ways.

The office currently concentrates on international trade and the development of goodwill with foreign countries, economic development, promoting safe and healthy communities, the prevention of alcohol and harmful substance abuse, the mentoring of youth and constituent services. The lieutenant governor makes frequent speeches and public appearances before a variety of groups across the state.

  • Visit the Lieutenant Governor’s Web Site

  

Senate Rules Room

This is the meeting space for the Senate Rules Committee.

The Senate Rules room is in the lieutenant governor’s office; the lieutenant governor serves as the chair on this committee. All bills that pass through the Senate must go through the Senate Rules Committee.

Pictured on the back wall are past lieutenant governors - see photos of past lt. governors

Office of the Secretary of State

The Office of the Secretary of State was established with the adoption of the Washington State Constitution in 1889. The Secretary of State is elected every four years and is second in the line of succession to the Office of the Governor. There have been 14 Secretaries of State since statehood.

  • Explore the Secretary of State’s web site 

Office of the State Treasurer

The primary constitutional duty of the state treasurer and the Office of the State Treasurer is to manage the state’s financial resources.

As the state’s chief fiscal officer, the state treasurer is responsible for keeping the books and managing taxpayers’ money from the time it is collected until it is spent on programs the Legislature approves. The office provides banking, investment, debt issuance, and accounting services for state government. It also plays a major role in providing financial services to local governments.

The office also offers cashing of state warrants, according to statute. State employees or any recipient of a state warrant can redeem their warrant at the Legislative Building office.

  • Visit the State Treasurer's web site

View of Interior Dome

From the Rotunda floor the interior dome rises 175 feet. The interior dome is one of two domes — an interior dome visible from the floor of the rotunda, and the stone exterior dome . Within the two domes is a conical-shaped concrete structure that carries the weight of the cupola and lantern fixed atop the Legislative Building. 33 million pounds of brick and concrete are above visitors when viewing the dome from the rotunda floor.

Massive concrete arches carry the weight of the domes and are clearly visible in the Rotunda. These lower portions of these arches are covered by Alaskan Tokeen marble, which also is the majority of marble in the building public spaces.
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X
  • Learn more about the Dome (video)

State Reception Room

The State Reception room has a variety of historic furnishing and displays:

  • World's largest single-loom carpet, 1928, Mohawk Company
  • Seven-foot circular table, a gift of the architects to the state. The table features intricate carvings on the base
  • Italian picture book marble
  • Tiffany glass-bead chandeliers
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

State Reception Room

On the west wall of the Reception room a forty-two star flag, remaining from statehood celebrations in 1889, is on display. This flag is one of four 42-star flags in Washington’s possession. The 42-star flag was never an official flag of the United States due to Idaho’s admission on July 3, 1890. The following day July 4, 1890, the Official Flag of the United States of America was christened with 43 stars. This particular flag was donated by the Thomas Wade Marsh family of Olympia.

On display in the State Reception Room is the original Washington state flag design. On February 21, 1929 the Daughters of the American Revolution, Lady Sterling Chapter, presented this state flag to a joint session of the Legislature. The flag/banner was received by Governor Ronald H. Hartley in behalf of the State. Considerable debate surrounds the design of the original State Flag including deliberation by the legislature. The original green background has faded over time, but the gold fringe and paint remain vibrant. The flag has changed considerably since this rendition.

  • Read a period news article about the state banner
  • Read the Legislative History of the Washington State Flag

Senate Chamber

The Senate chamber walls are lined with German marble. Forty-nine mahogany desks sit atop a decorative carpet featuring small English Dogwood flowers and large Rhododendrons.

The rostrums at the front of the chamber serve as a location for the lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate and for Senate staff to carry out operations.

  • Learn more about the Senate
  • See group photos of Senators
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

Senate Galleries

Senators are elected to 4 year terms of office by the constituents of their legislative district. One senator from each legislative district occupies a desk on the chamber floor when the Senate is in session. Each legislative district represents 130,000 people. These constituents also have two representatives in the House of Representatives.

Caucus rooms for the Democrats (who sit on the north side of the chamber) and Republicans (who sit on the south side of the chamber) are underneath the public viewing galleries.

A reader board, near the front of the chamber, displays information pertaining to floor action.

Members of the Senate vote by roll call.

  • Take a video tour of the Washington State Senate
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

House Chamber

The floor of the House and Senate drop two feet gradually, from back to front, to provide a theater style view of the rostrums.

House members vote electronically. Two large electronic display boards on the west wall of the House include all of the members' names. When voting, each member’s name appears in either green for a yes vote or red indicating a no vote. In the center is the House status board. This center board shows the total of votes. This center board also details the status of bills under discussion and the current status of the House (if in caucus or when they will return to the floor).

  • Learn more about the House of Representatives
  • See group photos of House members
  • Learn more about Legislative History
  • Click on the speaker icon to hear tour guide Tom Doyle X

House Galleries

In the House of Representatives the carpeted floor has a Rhododendron and Trillium flower motif. The walls in the House are French marble.

The House of Representatives has 98 representatives, two from each legislative district. Each representative has a desk on the floor of the House. The rostrums at the front are for the Speaker of the House and House staff to manage operations. Representatives are elected to 2 year terms of office by the constituents of their legislative district. Hear a roll call vote in the House of Representatives: X

Thank You

Thank you for visiting the Washington Capitol Campus. For information on tours, or questions about this tour, contact State Capitol Visitor Services:

    State Capitol Tours
    Legislative Building
    P.O. Box 41034
    Olympia, Wa 98504
    (360) 902-8880

or visit our Homepage

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Sources: Capitol Committee/Commission, General Correspondence and Subject Files 1893-1985,” Washington State Archives.
Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, “National Register of Historic Places—Inventory,  Department of General Administration, September 8, 1994.