Twin Domes: Arkansas’ State House Commissioners Visit Mississippi

Caricature of George R. Mann, hired in 1899 to design Arkansas’s new capitol building; 1908 From Men of Affairs, courtesy of the Arkansas History CommissionWell, it’s been a long time since we heard of our old friend George Mann, the architect of the Arkansas Capitol, and his nemesis, George Donaghey, so when I spied this little article in the Daily Clarion Ledger, May 21, 1903, I felt I was peeking in on the prequel to the Twin Domes story, you know the one when everybody was still friends, nobody had run anybody else off of their own building project, and nobody had claimed that they designed somebody else’s dome?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at Blake Wintory’s seriously researched but entertaining Two Dome series, wherein the architect of Arkansas’ capitol, George Mann, claimed to have given the design for Mississippi’s lovely dome free of charge to our favorite capitol architect, Theodore C. Link. The story, as all good Southern stories are, is a long and involved one involving numerous characters, such as Mr. G.W. Donaghey, dastardly deeds, and engaging digressions. After you’ve read it all, I guarantee you’ll want to go take a walk through both capitol buildings (maybe after all the politicians have gone home for the year) and re-live this epic saga of good and evil.

Looked at New Capitol.

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Arkansas Commissioners Surprised At What They Saw

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A Striking Contrast to the Present Stage of Construction on Their Own New State House

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Source: Building A State Capitol, by George W. Donaghey

Source: Building A State Capitol, by George W. Donaghey

Three members of the Arkansas capitol commission, Judge J.B. McCalen, Hon. R.W. McFarland and Hon. Z.T. Matthews, accompanied by Mr. G.W. Donaghey, superintendent of construction of the building, spent the day in Jackson and made a thorough inspection of Mississippi’s new capitol.

The party reached this city from New Orleans where they witnessed the first two days of the Confederate reunion, and on meeting Governor Longino in that city they decided to stop over in Jackson for the purpose of getting a few pointers on capitol building construction. They were provided with a note from the governor giving them authority to make a thorough inspection of all parts of the building.

The gentlemen from Arkansas were accompanied through the building by Judge R.H. Thompson, the resident member of the commission, and practically the entire morning was spent viewing the structure. The visitors were greatly surprised at the rapid progress that has been made on the building, the evidence of substantial workmanship, and the stage of completion that has been reached.

The visitors declined to be interviewed concerning the troubles over the Arkansas state house, the corner stone for which was laid before the Mississippi building was started, and which has as yet hardly passed the foundation stage. Some of them, however, indulged rather freely in criticisms of the policy pursued by Governor Jefferson Davis concerning the state house matter, and it was evident that the relations existing between them and the governor are not at all friendly.

The Arkansas state house was designed by Mr. Geo. R. Mann, who also submitted plans in the Mississippi competition. Mississippi was represented at the laying of its cornerstone by Bishop Charles B. Galloway.

The commissioners left on the north-bound train for Memphis from which point they will go to Little Rock tonight.

Daily Clarion Ledger, May 21, 1903

Tale of Two Domes series

See more about the Mississippi Capitols, Old and New

Mississippi State Capitol Dome (left), 1900-1903; Arkansas State Capitol Dome (right), 1900-1916

Mississippi State Capitol Dome (left), 1900-1903; Arkansas State Capitol Dome (right), 1900-1916



Categories: Capitols Old & New

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3 replies

  1. Thanks for the prequell. There are not any major changes on the case of the two domes. I did look at the Donaghey Papers at the University of Arkansas. There is a nice political cartoon of Gov. Donaghey chiseling at AR dome in the papers, but nothing has surfaced to reveal if Arkansas officials (Donaghey and Cass Gilbert) consciously modeled the dome after Link’s Mississippi Capitol dome…and nothing to substantiate Mann’s claim that Link borrowed the design for the MS Capitol dome either….

    Also Arkansas historians are still hooked on Mann’s version of the story. A recent book, _Architects of Little Rock, 1833-1950 (2014), repeats Mann’s version of the Capitol story.

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