The Utah State Capitol is the center of government for the state of Utah. It sits on a former munitions storage area once called Arsenal Hill (now Capitol Hill). The land was donated by Salt Lake City to the state in 1888 for the purpose of building the capitol, but construction didn’t begin until 1912. The building was completed in 1916.
Free tours of the capitol are available Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. The building is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 8pm and weekends and holidays from 8am to 6pm. I visited on a Sunday so I wasn’t able to take a tour.
I entered the capitol on the 2nd floor, which is also the main floor. The floor is covered in marble and I was able to hear echoes bouncing around in the cavernous interior.
The dome, which is 165 ft. above the floor, is covered in paintings. The painting on the ceiling of the dome was done by William Slater and shows California gulls flying among the clouds. The four pendentives were painted by Lee Greene Richards and represent four important moments in Utah history: Father Escalante Discovers Utah Lake – 1776; Peter Skene Ogden at Ogden River – 1828; Fremont First Sees Great Salt Lake – 1843; and Brigham Young and Pioneers Entering the Valley. Richards also painted the cyclorama, depicting eight more important scenes in Utah history.
I climbed the stairs to the 3rd floor. This is where the House of Representatives and Senate chambers are located. There’s also a ceremonial Supreme Court chamber. The court moved downtown to the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse on Washington Square in 1998. All of the chambers were closed during my visit.
The 4th floor has a sculpture gallery in the hallways, featuring sculptures, busts and statues of several important people from Utah. One that stuck out to me was Philo T. Farnsworth, an inventor who contributed a lot to the development of the television.
Statues and Sculptures
There are several statues and sculptures on Capitol Hill. In front of the building are two beehive sculptures presented to the state in 1976. The beehive is an important symbol of Utah, representing the hard-working spirit and cooperation of its people.
Lions made of Italian marble guard the east and west entrances of the capitol. The original lions were placed there in 1915, but they were replaced during renovations between 2004 and 2008.
A monument dedicated to the Mormon Battalion also stands on the grounds. It’s dedicated to the 500 pioneers who volunteered to join the US Army during the Mexican-American War. It was erected in 1927.
Finally, Council Hall is across the street from the capitol. It served as Salt Lake City Hall from 1866 to 1894. It was dismantled and relocated to its current location in 1962, and now houses the Utah Office of Tourism.