Mississippi Capitol Earns National Landmark Status

I didn’t plan on taking a vacation from the blog this week, but how could I have known the Cubs would take me through such a nerve-wracking World Series and making me stay up so late on Wednesday to get them through those last couple of innings? So let me take this opportunity to say something my long-suffering grandparents, born in the 1910s in Cicero, Illinois, never got to say: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!! CUBS WIN!!! HOLY COW!!!!

On that note, Mississippi also won on Wednesday, when the U.S. Secretary of the Interior announced that the Mississippi State Capitol, aka the New Capitol, was given the nation’s highest historical designation when it was named a National Historic Landmark. According to the Secretary’s press release (which included nine other new designees):

New CapitolMississippi State Capitol, Jackson, Miss.

The Mississippi State Capitol is a nationally significant example of Academic Classical Revival architecture, providing a remarkably vivid illustration of the nationwide spread of Academic Classicism following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Designed by St. Louis architect Theodore Link, the building is notable among state capitols for its unity of design and construction, having been built by a single general contracting firm, W. A. and A. E. Wells of Chicago, within a single three-year construction program.

The Mississippi Legislature also posted a longer press release:

STATE CAPITOL EARNS NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK DESIGNATION

JACKSON – The U.S. Department of Interior today named the Mississippi State Capitol as a National Historic Landmark, a rare designation marking the building’s architectural significance.

The Mississippi Legislature and the Department of Archives and History applied for the designation from the National Park Service. There are about 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the United States.

“Walking into the Capitol every day, I am always impressed by the beauty of the architecture and the significance of the history within the walls of this structure,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “This designation ensures this beautiful building, and all of the history contained within, will be preserved for future Mississippians to enjoy.”

The designation means the building will be eligible for federal funds if damaged in a presidentially declared disaster.

“The Mississippi Capitol is one of the most beautiful in the country,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said. “I am in awe of its beauty and proud to come to work here each day.”

Since 1969, the Capitol has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 90,000 sites are on the Register, which includes buildings, archaeology sites and objects deemed worthy of preservation.

Designed in 1900 by St. Louis architect Theodore Link, the Mississippi Capitol was one of the earliest state capitols built in the style of Beaux Arts Classicism, which came to dominate American public architecture in the early 20th Century. Beaux Arts designers tried to integrate the arts into their classical buildings, including sculpture, stained glass, and mosaic marble floors, as seen at the State Capitol. The building was constructed from 1901 to 1903 for $1 million, which was funded through a tax lawsuit settlement with Illinois Central Railroad.

The building was designed to house all branches of state government. Currently, only the Legislature, the ceremonial office of the Governor, and an office of the Secretary of State operate in the Capitol.

More than 25,000 visitors from around the world tour the Capitol annually. To schedule a tour, contact Visitors Services at (601) 359-3114 or email Tours@house.ms.gov.

National Historic Landmarks are distinct from National Register-listed buildings and districts in that NHLs are considered nationally significant and must meet a high level of architectural integrity. National Register properties may be listed for local and state significance, and so there are over 90,000 National Register properties, while there are only 2,500 NHLs. Both programs are administered by the National Park Service.

The NHL nomination runs to 68 pages and was written by Richard Cawthon, retired chief architectural historian at MDAH. You can read the whole nomination (which cites MissPres and Blake Wintory’s Two Domes series) at the NHL website. Here’s the Introduction to get you started:

The Mississippi State Capitol, designed by Theodore C. Link of St. Louis and built from 1901 to 1903, is nationally significant under National Historic Landmark Criterion 4, as an exceptionally fine example of Academic Classical Revival architecture, providing a remarkably vivid illustration of the nationwide spread of Academic Classicism following the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It is particularly notable among state capitol buildings for its unity of design and construction, having been built by a single general contracting firm, under the direction of a single architect, within a single three-year program of construction. It was completed before any of the other state capitols that are important examples of American Academic Classicism. The building is notable as well for its large and important collection of art glass by Louis J. Millet, and for its extensive use of scagliola (art marble). In addition, the Mississippi State Capitol is remarkable for the degree to which it embraced and exhibited the latest technical developments of its time, most vividly evident in its thousands of prominently exposed electric light bulbs, making a clear statement of modernity in the rural South at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Its period of significance corresponds to the span of years of its design and construction, from 1900 to 1903. Although it is unusual for a period of significance to begin before the actual start of construction of the building, in this case it is important because it shows the early date of the formulation of this design in relation to other major examples of Academic Classical architecture and to other comparable state capitols in particular; because it demonstrates the swiftness with which the complex plan was created and subsequently executed; and because it encompasses the important contributions of Bernard R. Green in the selection of the architect and the refinement of the design.

Read more . . .

 



Categories: Architectural Research, Capitols Old & New, Cool Old Places, Jackson

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8 replies

  1. Cubs win! Mississippi wins! A very good week.

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  2. Wonderful news! The New Capitol is Mississippi’s 39th National Historic Landmark if Wikipedia is correct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Historic_Landmarks_in_Mississippi

    I am glad the World Series is over so we wont have to hear Joe Buck swoon over Kyle Schwarber during an Cleveland Indians game until April.

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    • Wow, W., I’m sorry you’re unhappy with the results of the World Series, but I don’t think your long comment/rant is warranted in this context.

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      • Thank you ELM gosh who would have thought saying GO CUBS GO was so controversial …oh well. Should tell you the weather has cooperated so that the parade was under beautiful blue sky’s. Hope the weather is not too much of a controversy. Enjoy the weekend of CUBS news.

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  3. Take it from someone who lives in the city…the pain is finally over. Now the parade…GO CUBS GO!!! I think better than half the city has sleep depravation we will catch up this weekend we get an extra hour.

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  4. GO CUBS GO!!!!

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  5. didn’t take sides in the world(shouldn’t really be ‘world’s’?) series since i have friends in both chicago and cleveland.

    but, am very happy about the ‘new’ status for the ‘new’ capitol. yes, it’s a wonderful building, and i am happy that it’s still serving its original purpose– with distinction!

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  6. When I toured the Capitol in May I asked if anyone had ever written a book about the Capitol’s history. All the guides were at a loss to answer. I haven’t read the nomination yet, but it will have to have enough data to write the book. BTW the Texas Capitol has several publications for sale in their gift shop…hint hint to Mississippi!

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