One of the country’s greatest politicians and a Minnesota legend stands outside the state capitol in St. Paul, facing the building, as if he is telling leaders to represent their state properly and do the right thing. Hubert H. Humphrey served as a mayor, U.S. Senator and Vice President during his 33-year political career. A memorial to one of America’s most liberal politicians of the 1900s stands on the campus of the capitol. With quotes and a statue, Minnesota pays homage to one of its greatest leaders.
Humphrey’s memorial is one of several that are located around the capitol. Significant state leaders honored on the campus include Floyd Olson, who served as governor during the Depression, and Knute Nelson, who was the first foreign-born governor. Minnesota also pays tribute to its Scandinavian heritage with a state of Leif Erickson.
The state capitol offers free tours daily. We recommend taking a guided tour, which occurs between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Tours are free. You can also take a self-guided tour.
Rome’s Saint Peter’s Basilica provided the inspiration for the capitol’s design. Minnesota’s dome – made from marble – is the second largest self-supported dome in the world.
I believe we learn so much more on guided tours. And the Minnesota tour was no different. Starting in the Governor’s reception room, which consists of white oak woodwork. The room features artwork recognizing the state’s involvement during the Civil War. Minnesota was among the leaders when it came to providing soldiers for the war.
The Rotunda offered a beautiful view of the dome and the artwork adorning the walls. The state’s motto –“The North Star’s State” – is represented with a marble design in the middle of the Rotunda. Artwork features sculptures and paintings, including Dakota Chief Wabasha.
The capitol’s second floor houses the state Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court. Visitors can watch the legislative chambers in action when they meet, which is every odd-numbered year.
The state Senate consists of 67 members, each elected for four-year terms. It’s considered the upper chamber of the legislature. Artwork features paintings on each wall highlighting equality, freedom and justice, as well as state leaders, including Knute Nelson.
House of Representatives members are elected for two-year terms. Considered the lower chamber, the House has 134 members.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. It consists of a chief justice and six associate justices.
Possibly the most beautiful part of the capitol tour may be the Quadriga on the roof. As you walk outside, you first get an impressive view of St. Paul. The Quadriga is a bright gold statue featuring four horses pulling a chariot. The horses signify earth, water, fire and wind. Known officially as The Progress of the State, the statue includes three human figures. A male figure driving the chariot represents the state. Two women represent agriculture and industry.
Minnesota’s capitol tells an interesting story with its design and art. From its heritage to its politics, visitors will find the hourlong tour valuable. We recommend taking a tour.
For additional information on the Minnesota capitol, please visit www.mnhs.org.