Friday, July 16, 2010

View From the Top

Magnet # 293:  Tallahassee Capitol Complex Photo

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Well, I did it again. Last month, I hopped in my car, headed out on I-95, and took another road trip all on my own. This time I headed west on I-10 toward Louisiana. I had been wanting to check out New Orleans and see the Louisiana state capitol, Baton Rouge. I decided not to try to make the 10-hour trip to the Crescent City all on the first day and instead drive four hours and spend the night in Florida's capitol, Tallahassee.

From what I saw, Tallahassee is a fairly modern city with some links to its past. Although the Spanish founded missions there in the 1600s, the area went mostly overlooked until it became the territory's capitol in 1824 because it was pretty much midway between St. Augustine and Pensacola. So most of the historic buildings that are left there were built between 1821 and 1824. The first place I visited on my way into town was the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. They were built back in the early 1900s by Alfred Barmore Maclay and his wife Louise, wealthy individuals from the North who traveled down to Florida each winter. Unfortunately, I think that's the best time to visit this home they left to the state, as that is when the house they once lived in is open to the public and their plants, which include azaleas, camellias, and wisteria, are in bloom. By summer, not too many flowers were visible and it was a little hot trekking around, but I can imagine that it would be a lovely place to see at the right time. I then made my way toward downtown Tallahassee, where I stayed at a Best Western off of Apalachee Parkway, which dead ends at the state Capitol Complex.  The two main parts of the complex are the Florida State Capitol and the Old Capitol.  The Old Capitol was completed in 1845 and is a more traditional style, complete with columns, a pediment, and a dome.  It was the third Capitol building for the newly-created state, and yet even it proved to not be enough to serve the rapidly growing population.  It was expanded four times and a debate to relocate the Capitol stretched on for years.  Finally, it was decided that the Old Capitol was not able to meet the needs of the state government any longer.  Construction on the fourth and, for now, final State Capitol began on November 8, 1973.  This building was a dramatic departure from the many state capitols who take after the features of the U.S. Capitol, including the former Florida capitol.  Instead, it was a more modern structure rising 22 stories.  On either side of the tower, wings with domes were placed.  It's odd to believe that all of those involved in the creation of the capitol, including an architectural and engineer firm, never noticed, but these features, when combined, gave the building a very masculine appearance.  In fact, it has been dubbed the most phallic building in the world.  I found that when I was very close to the building, it wasn't very noticeable but when traveling down Apalachee Parkway down to the State Capitol, I had to wonder what the builders were thinking.  Regardless, I still ventured in to have a look around.  Regular tours aren't offered at the State Capitol, but they do give out pamphlets for self-guided tours.  I headed straight up to the Observation Deck on the top floor.  It was pretty large, with both east and west wings, was enclosed by glass windows, and offered an impressive view of the city.  On my way back down to the Plaza Level, I checked out the House and Senate chambers.  Both had lovely murals painted at the entrance to the chamber floor featuring Florida history.  There were also two impressive murals at the Plaza Level, along with a Heritage Chapel that can be used for meditation, weddings, and baptisms.  I also checked out the Old State Capitol, which was saved when the new one was being built thanks to citizens of Tallahassee and now houses the Florida Legislative Research Center & Museum on its ground floor.  It was nice to see how it's been utilized and is still around for the public to appreciate.  It's been restored to its 1902 appearance and is directly located in front of the current State Capitol.  The next day, I visited the nearby Museum of Florida History and was very impressed by what I saw there.  But I have a magnet from that stop, so I think I'll wait to discuss it further when I post that.

I had a nice time in Tallahassee and I was glad to check out another state capitol building, as I've decided to try and see them all someday.  It really is interesting to compare the Old Capitol with its traditional appearance with the new one, that is much more modern, despite its curious overall look.  If you're ever in Tallahassee, you'll likely have a good time seeing them yourself.  And remember, the Observation Deck not only offers one of the best views in town, it's also completely free to visit - just another reason why I love state capitol buildings!

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