8 Surprising Things I Discovered at the Oklahoma State Capitol

State capitol buildings are more than places for lawmaking and other state business. Many of them are also museums, open for the public to tour and learn about a state’s legislative process and its history. While many features of capitol buildings are similar, each is unique to its own state. The first unique thing I noticed about the Oklahoma State Capitol on my recent visit was the oil derrick standing in front of it.

Oklahoma State Capitol

Here is what I learned about the oil derrick, along with seven other interesting facts about the Oklahoma State Capitol Building:

1. The oil derrick doesn’t stand in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol only as a symbol of Oklahoma’s top industry. It was a real, working oil rig. The state capitol grounds sit on top of the Oklahoma City Oil Field.

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2. The capitol building, constructed from 1914 to 1917, was without a dome until 2002. Although the dome was in the original blueprints, it wasn’t added due to budget shortages, politics and material shortages during World War I.

Oklahoma State Capitol dome

3. The building cost $1.5 million to erect. The dome would have cost an additional $250,000 when the capitol was built. When it was finally added in 2002, the cost was $21 million.

Inside the Oklahoma State Capitol dome

4. Standing atop the dome is a bronze sculpture of a Native American titled “The Guardian.” The figure is 17 feet tall, and with the staff he holds, reaches 22 feet, 9 inches into the sky. A 9-foot replica of the sculpture stands in the second floor rotunda.

The Guardian

5. Stained glass panels in the ceiling of the 5th floor Senate and House of Representatives Chambers had been covered years ago when the building was “modernized.” Some of the original panels and replicas to replace those that couldn’t be repaired are once again in place.

stained glass skylight panels at Oklahoma State Capitol

6. Community and private events are often held in the capitol. On the day we visited a Red Cross event was taking place.

Oklahoma State Capitol rotunda

7. The capitol is filled with quality artwork, most depicting historic aspects of the state. Large portraits of notable Oklahomans, including Olympian Jim Thorpe and baseball great Mickey Mantle, line the fourth-floor walls of the rotunda.

Artwork in Oklahoma State Capitol artworkJim Thorpe and Mickey Mantle

8. The art in the capitol is curated by the Oklahoma Arts Council. Besides the artwork hanging throughout the building, the Betty Price Gallery on the first floor of the capitol features works by artists who were born in, trained in or have produced much of their work in Oklahoma.

If you visit the Oklahoma State Capitol

  • The Oklahoma State Capitol is located at 2300 N Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.
  • The building is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and holidays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Christmas.  (Tip: The Betty Price Gallery has shorter hours, so plan your day accordingly.)
  • Free guided tours (45 minutes) are offered weekdays at 9 a.m. 10 a.m., 11a.m., 1 p.m. 2, p.m. and 3 p.m.  (Tip: During the school year there may be a lot of children on field trip tours of the capitol. For a smaller crowd, take one of the later afternoon tours.)
  • Visit while legislative bodies are in session, and you can watch legislature in action from the Senate Gallery or House Gallery.
  • A self-guided tour pamphlet is available free-of-charge in the gift shop.
  • Visit the website for further details.

Accommodations: We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City Autograph Collection during our visit to Oklahoma City. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

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Disclosures: My visit to Oklahoma City was hosted by the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. However, any opinions expressed in this article are my own.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product or book a hotel room through these links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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6 thoughts on “8 Surprising Things I Discovered at the Oklahoma State Capitol

  • April 28, 2016 at 10:16 pm
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    We like visiting state Capitols. I love how much of the state’s treasures they incorporate inside. How neat that this Capitol sits on a working oil field. The art work and those stained glass windows are beautiful.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 4:57 pm
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    We love visiting capitol buildings as you learn so much about the state’s history. That stained glass is so colorful, it’s a pity it was covered up at one point. Thank you for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust

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    • May 3, 2016 at 6:15 am
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      It’s unbelievable what has been done to some buildings in the past in the name of “modernization.” In this case they still had the name of the original glass maker, and the company was still in business and still had the original order on file. They were able to duplicate the original glass panels for those that were broken.

      Reply
  • May 4, 2016 at 12:09 am
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    Wow, that’s a beautiful capital building! I’ve driven past it at a distance, but wow – we’ll have to stop in next time! Thanks for letting us know! 🙂 #WeekendWanderlust

    Reply
  • May 5, 2016 at 9:45 pm
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    A few corrections to your piece: Petunia #1, the oil well directly in front of the Capitol played out in the 1980s. It is no longer active. Also, the Jim Thorpe portrait is located in the 4th floor rotunda, not the first floor rotunda. Finally, the replica of the Guardian inside the Capitol stands at the top of the mini-grand staircase, which begins on the first floor. The original main entrance to the Capitol was the Grand Staircase on the 2nd floor.

    Reply
    • May 6, 2016 at 8:46 am
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      Thank you for pointing those things out. I’ve made the corrections.

      Reply

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