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Massachusetts State House
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
Massachusetts State House Boston November 2016.jpg
The Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House is located in Boston
Massachusetts State House
Location in Boston
Location 24 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts
Built 1795–1798
Architect
  • Charles Bulfinch, Charles Brigham
  • Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews
Architectural style Federal
Part of Beacon Hill Historic District (ID66000130)
NRHP reference No. 66000771
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL December 19, 1960
Designated CP October 15, 1966
MAstatehouse62
Stereograph image of the Massachusetts State House c. 1862, before the addition of wings. The copper dome was first painted gray to appear as stone, and then was gilded in 1872.
Massachusetts State House Front Gate
The front gate of the State House, located on Beacon Street.
Massachusetts State House 1827
1827 drawing by Alexander Jackson Davis
Massachusetts State House Red Sox Banner
The State House displaying a banner in honor of the Boston Red Sox's 2013 World Series appearance

The Massachusetts State House, also known as the Massachusetts Statehouse or the New State House, is the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. The building houses the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) and the offices of the Governor of Massachusetts. The building, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, was completed in January 1798 at a cost of $133,333 (more than five times the budget), and has repeatedly been enlarged since. It is considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture and among Bulfinch's finest works, and was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance.

Building and grounds

The building is situated on 6.7 acres (27,000 m2) of land on top of Beacon Hill in Boston, opposite the Boston Common on Beacon Street. It was built on land once owned by John Hancock, Massachusetts's first elected governor. The Masonic cornerstone ceremony took place on July 4, 1795, with Paul Revere, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, presiding.

Before the current State House was completed in 1798, Massachusetts's government house was the Old State House on what is now Washington Street. For the building's design, architect Charles Bulfinch made use of two existing buildings in London: William Chambers's Somerset House, and James Wyatt's Pantheon.

After Maine separated from Massachusetts and became an independent state in 1820, Charles Bulfinch designed Maine's capitol building with architectural influence of the Massachusetts Capitol building with a simplified Greek Revival influence.

The Commonwealth completed a major expansion of the original building in 1895. The architect for the annex was Bostonian Charles Brigham.

In 1917, the east and west wings, designed by architects Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, were completed.

In July 2016, Governor Charlie Baker proposed to the state legislature to sell 300 square feet (28 m2) of permanent easement on the west side of the State House lawn to a neighboring condominium. The land in question was once pasture owned by John Hancock and the easement would allow for the addition of au pair units.

Dome

The original wood dome, which leaked, was covered with copper in 1802 by Paul Revere's Revere Copper Company. Revere was the first American to roll copper successfully into sheets (for copper sheathing) in a commercially viable manner.

The dome was first painted gray and then light yellow before being gilded with gold leaf in 1874. During World War II, the dome was painted gray once again, to prevent reflection during blackouts and to protect the city and building from bombing attacks. In 1997, at a cost of more than $300,000, the dome was re-gilded, in 23k gold.

The dome is topped with a gilded, wooden pine cone, symbolizing both the importance of Boston's lumber industry during early colonial times and of the state of Maine, which was a district of the Commonwealth when the Bulfinch section of the building was completed.

Statuary

In front of the building is an equestrian statue of General Joseph Hooker. Other statues in front of the building include Daniel Webster, educator Horace Mann, and former US President John F. Kennedy. The statues of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer are located on the lawns below the east and west wings.

Inside the building

Reading room of the State Library of Massachusetts-9318
Reading room of the State Library of Massachusetts
Memorial to US Civil War nurses in Massachusetts State House
Memorial to U.S. Civil War nurses

The original red-brick Bulfinch building contains the Governor's offices (on the west end) with the Massachusetts Senate occupying the former House of Representatives Chamber under the dome. The Massachusetts House of Representatives occupies a chamber on the west side of the Brigham addition. Hanging over this chamber is the "Sacred Cod", which was given to the House of Representatives in 1784 by a Boston merchant. The Sacred Cod symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry to the early Massachusetts economy.

The House Chamber is decorated with murals by Albert Herter, father of Massachusetts Gov. Christian Herter. Murals on the second floor under the dome were painted by artist Edward Brodney. Brodney won a competition to paint the first mural in a contest sponsored by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. It is entitled "Columbia Knighting Her World War Disabled". Brodney could not afford to pay models, and friends and family posed. The model for Columbia was Brodney's sister Norma Brodney Cohen, and the model for the soldier on one knee in the foreground was his brother Fred Brodney. In 1938, he painted a second mural under the dome called "World War Mothers". The models were again primarily friends and family members, with sister Norma sitting beside their mother Sarah Brodney. The New York Times notes that the murals are relatively rare examples of military art with women as their subjects.

A staircase in front of the Bulfinch building leads from Beacon Street to Doric Hall inside the building. The large main doors inside Doric Hall are only opened on three occasions:

  1. When the President of the United States or a foreign head of state visits.
  2. When the Governor exits the building on his or her last day in office. This tradition is known as the Long Walk and begins when the Governor, alone, exits the Executive Chamber, walks down to the second floor, through Doric Hall, and out the main doors. He or she then descends the staircase, crosses Beacon Street, and enters Boston Common, symbolically rejoining the people of Massachusetts as a private citizen. The tradition has been interrupted during recent years. Governor William Weld descended the staircase on his last day in office July 29, 1997, meeting his successor then-Lt. Governor A. Paul Cellucci on the stairs. Four years later, then-Governor Cellucci was deprived of his symbolic chance to descend the State House steps because of ongoing renovations to the front of the building. Acting Governor Jane Swift elected to walk down the stairs with her family before departing for the Berkshire Mountains. On January 4, 2007, Deval Patrick chose to be sworn in on the staircase and give his inaugural address there, forcing outgoing Governor Mitt Romney to take the Long Walk the day before his last in office.
  3. When a regimental flag is returned from battle. Since the regimental flags now return to Washington, D.C., this has not been done since the Vietnam War.

The Samuel Adams and Paul Revere time capsule is a metal box located in a cornerstone of the State House, placed there in the late 18th century and rediscovered in 2014. The contents include coins, newspaper clippings and other historical artifacts.

Offices

Constitutional Officers

The State House contains the primary offices of all the commonwealth's Constitutional officers with exception of the Attorney General, who is based at the nearby McCormack Building.

Legislature

The majority of State House office space is given over to the Legislature. Every member of the House and Senate is assigned an office. Large third-floor suites are assigned to the House Speaker (Room 332). Other offices include the House and Senate clerks, House and Senate counsel, and Legislative Information Services.

Fourth Estate

One corridor of the building's fourth floor is a sort of Newspaper Row, anchored by the large Press Gallery suite where reporters from a range of publications maintain desks. The central Press Gallery room was given to use of reporters by the Legislature in 1909. The Massachusetts State House Press Association, established in 1909, governs these shared workspaces. Some individual news outlets have separate offices.

  • Press Gallery—Headquarters of State House reporters for Associated Press, WWLP-TV, the Eagle-Tribune papers, Lowell Sun, WGBH-FM, Springfield Republican/Masslive, and Politico
  • State House News Service newsroom
  • WBUR-FM State House bureau
  • Boston Globe State House bureau
  • Kevin McNicholas Room, a shared space for broadcast stations

Veterans' Organizations

A suite of rooms on the fifth floor is home to the Massachusetts headquarters of several veterans' groups, including the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Italian American War Veterans of the United States, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Korean War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Persian Gulf Era Veterans, Polish Legion of American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Services

  • U.S. Post Office - State House Station (ZIP Code 02133)
  • State House Cafe, open for breakfast and lunch with short-order grill and deli service and a variety of snacks

Gallery

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