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