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Austin Treasures: Online Exhibits from the Austin History Center Austin History Center Home Austin Treasures Home

star border View of the Capitol from a distance Capitol Views View of the Capitol from a distance View of the Capitol from a distance star border
View of the Capitol from a distance View of the Capitol from a distance
Photograph of men standing in Texas Supreme Court Room
Seated left to right: Deputy Clerk F. T. Connerly, Clerk Charles S. Morse, Associate Justice T. J. Brown, Chief Justice R. R. Gaines, and Associate Justice F. A. Williams. The Supreme Court met in the Capitol until 1959, when it moved into its own building. [PICA 12954] enlarge image

Photograph of Governor Colquitt seated at curtain desk
Governor Oscar Branch Colquitt seated at this desk, 1913. Of the several types of curtain desks purchased from A.H. Andrews & Company for the Capitol, the Governor's desk, with carved drawers and a spindle gallery around the top, was the most elaborate. Its present location is unknown. [C 00311] enlarge image

Photograph of Governor's Reception Room
The Governor's Public Reception Room, c. 1894. The Furnishing Board's specifications called for a French plate mirror, top-of-the-line "Royal Wilton" carpeting, and allocated $350 per window for draperies. [PICA 06330] enlarge image

Photograph of men seated at desks in office of the Comptroller's Department
Turn-of-the-century office workers labor amid stacks of ledgers in the Comptroller's Department. [PICA 06333] enlarge image

Photograph of typists seated at typewriters
Unidentified typists pause in their crowded surroundings. [PICA 13038] enlarge image

Photograph of Senate Chamber in Capitol Building
This view of the Senate Chamber shows much of the furniture listed in the original specifications, including the members' swivel-based chairs and desks. Also visible is one of the building's most striking architectural features--the etched glass ceiling panels which provided the Chamber with natural lighting. Because one of these panels fell and shattered in 1947, they were removed for safety reasons. [C 05669] enlarge image

Photograph of Governor and Mrs. Moody standing in front of bandstand at Inaugural Ball
For decades the Capitol was the traditional setting for Inaugural Balls. In 1927 Dan Moody, pictured with his wife Mildred, celebrated becoming Texas' youngest Governor with a ball in the Senate Chamber. [C 02819] enlarge image

Photograph of House Chamber in Capitol Building
The House Chamber is the scene of many legislative decisions, which govern Texas and its citizens. [PICA 06329] enlarge image

The Capitol in Use

A grand building remains just a monument until it's used. The Texas State Capitol was certainly effective as a monument to a dynamic place and time, but it was also designed as housing for the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of the state. Symbolizing the grandeur of our vast state, it comfortably housed the governor, state agency offices, congressional conferences, and courts of law.

The Capitol served as a stage for inaugurations of many moods over the last century. Speeches have been offered in the House Chambers and on the front steps, and balls held in the House and Senate Chambers and the Rotunda. Once in office, governors presided over their formal duties of office in a spacious and elegantly furnished "State's parlor," the Governor's Reception Room.

The Governor's Public Reception Room, the "Living Room of Texas," is historically one of the more unique rooms in the Capitol. Its location, at the front of the building on the second floor, was one traditionally reserved for the most important room in a public structure. With a total budget of only $100,000, the Capitol Furnishing Board exercised great restraint in decorating the building, and elected to leave 46 rooms unfurnished in order to adequately furnish the more important and functional areas. In contrast, the furnishings, carpeting, and draperies purchased for this room were consistently the most expensive in the entire building.

The room's appearance has changed through the years. In 1936, in honor of the Texas Centennial, the room was "restored to its early glory." In honor of the 1986 Sesquicentennial Celebration, the room experienced another major restoration. The completion of the Capitol Preservation and Extension Project in 1995 and the Historic South Grounds Restoration Project in 1997 was part of an effort to return the Capitol to its original late nineteenth century appearance. Under the direction of the State Preservation Board and its staff, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the project was funded by contributions from the private sector.

Given the immense size of today's capitol complex, spilling many blocks beyond the original Capitol Square, it is relevant to note that except for the General Land Office all state agencies were originally housed in the Capitol itself. Agencies in the building included the Supreme Court, the Comptroller's Office, the State Library, and the Treasury. Some office holders used their offices as part-time living quarters and furnished them accordingly with washstands and wardrobes.

The House and Senate Chambers have been used not only to house legislative sessions but also as backdrops for bill signings, proclamations, and other formal occasions. In the days before the legislators' desks were wired for instant communications, moving them aside allowed the Chambers to serve a ballroom function, even for University of Texas graduation classes in the 1890s.

Photograph of Governor Jester making his inauguration speech on the steps of the Capitol Building.
The inauguration of Beauford H. Jester in 1947 was one of the most elaborate and colorful events to take place at the Capitol. Thousands gathered at the south entrance for the swearing-in ceremonies and later celebrated at five inaugural balls held throughout the city, including a square dance in the Senate Chamber. [PICB 04270] enlarge image

Photograph of Fireman's Monument Dedication Ceremony on Capitol Grounds
According to the Austin Daily Statesman, 400 to 500 people gathered for the dedication of the Firemen's Monument on July 7, 1896. The monument was one of the first to be erected on the 26-acre grounds surrounding the Capitol. [PICA 16341] enlarge image

Photograph of the Capitol greenhouse
The original Capitol greenhouse, built in 1908 and located east of the Capitol, was destroyed by fire in 1925. Another greenhouse was rebuilt on the same location, but was later moved to the State Cemetery. [C 06232] enlarge image

Photograph of small body of water on Capitol grounds
"Mosquito Lake," once located on the grounds west of the Capitol, was a well-known feature in the early 1900s. It was fed by an underground spring which still flows beneath the Capitol building. [PICA 06453] enlarge image

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The Capitol in Perspective The Capitol in Use Dedication Ceremonies Exhibit Overview Early Austin Capitols Design and Construction