Minnesota’s State Capitol
The Art and Politics of a Public Building
The lively story of how private citizens, architects, and public officials formed an unlikely coalition to build Minnesota’s statehouse at the turn of the twentieth century.
Minnesota’s State Capitol: The Art and Politics of a Public Building tells the story of how private citizens, professional tradesmen, and public officials formed a coalition that got Minnesota’s statehouse designed and built. Drawing on extensive research, Neil B. Thompson relates how several governors, a decade of hard work, and four million dollars contributed toward creating this magnificent testament to the sovereignty of the state, opened to the public for the first time in January 1905. This new edition is being published for the Capitol centennial celebration in 2005.
As Thompson observes, the lavishly decorated capitol, designed by emerging young architect Cass Gilbert of St. Paul, is a gigantic Renaissance palace, erected with superb materials and expert workmanship, as well as a monument in marble to a moment in Minnesota’s history when many residents felt that the frontier was passing away and they stood on the brink of a new age of urbanization and the modern era. With its huge dome (modeled after the one designed by Michelangelo for St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome), the stunning gold-leafed quadriga sculpture of driver and horses (executed by Daniel C. French and Edward C. Potter), and the vibrant paintings (by Kenyon Cox, John La Farge, Howard Pyle, Edwin H. Blashfield, and other noted artists), the capitol marked the beginning of Cass Gilbert’s acclaimed career. After gaining national prominence for his design, Gilbert soon moved to New York, where he went on to design such landmarks as the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., and the Woolworth Building in New York City.
For a century now, the Minnesota State Capitol has continued to be the beating heart of state government and a splendid symbol dominating the skyline of the city of St. Paul and the world’s perception of Minnesota itself.
By: Neil B. Thompson
Foreword by Elmer L. Andersen, former Governor of Minnesota
- Format: Paper, 160 pp., 7” x 10”, 60 b&w photos, appendices, notes, index
- Publisher: MNHS Press (January 2005)
- Product ##: 9780873510851
Neil B. Thompson (1921–77) was director of the American Studies program at St. Cloud State College (now St. Cloud State University). He also authored Crazy Horse Called Them Walk-A-Heaps: The Story of the Foot Soldier in the Prairie Indian Wars.
Praise for Minnesota’s State Capitol
“Boy genius architect, stuck in a pioneer town with seemingly no great future, wins design contest and moves on to international fame and fortune. . . . Strongly recommended to any and all who are interested in Minnesota’s history, life styles of the turn of the century, workings of social and political maneuvering, or just a good crackerjack of a story.” — Minnesota History