The Oregon State Capitol is the building housing the state legislature and the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and treasurer of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is located in the state capital, Salem. The current building, constructed from 1936 to 1938, and expanded in 1977, is the third to house the Oregon state government in Salem. Two former capitol buildings were destroyed by fire, one in 1855 and the other in 1935. New York architects Trowbridge & Livingston conceived the current structure's Art Deco design, in association with Francis Keally. Much of the interior and exterior is made of marble. The Oregon State Capitol was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Early capitol buildings
Before the creation of the Oregon Territory in 1848, the Oregon Country provisional government, through legislation on June 27, 1844 and December 19, 1845, selected Oregon City as the capital. Thus Oregon's first capitol was in Oregon City. One of the private buildings used by this government was constructed by John L. Morrison in 1850; it served as a capitol until the government moved to Salem. The designation of Oregon City as the seat of power was by proclamation of Governor Joseph Lane. In 1850, the legislature passed an act designating Salem the capital. However, Governor John P. Gaines refused to relocate and remained in Oregon City along with the Oregon Supreme Court (except justice Orville C. Pratt) until an act of Congress on May 14, 1852 settled the matter in Salem's favor.
The land developed for the permanent capitol buildings was Salem block 84, sold to the state for this purpose by pioneer and Salem founder W. H. Willson. Construction of the first capitol building began in 1854, shortly after Congress confirmed Salem as the capital city. However, with the capital moving to Corvallis the next year, construction was temporarily halted. After the capital's return to Salem, the building was nearly completed by late 1855. This territorial capitol, of Greek Revival-style, stood 50 feet (15 m) wide and 75 feet (23 m) long (15 by 23 m), with a stone facade and a 10-foot (3 m) portico. Built of native ashlar blocks, the exterior walls, two stories high, ranged in color from a deep sky blue to white.
Plans for a new building began to take shape in 1872 when the state legislature appropriated $100,000 ($ 2 million as of 2014) towards a new capitol building. This second capitol, built between 1873 and 1876, was a two-story structure with an additional first level that was partly underground; the total cost was $325,000 ($ 7.2 million as of 2014). The cornerstone for the building was laid on October 5, 1873, during a ceremony that included a speech by Governor Stephen F. Chadwick and the music of several bands. Construction, on the same site as the 1855 building, was partly accomplished with convict labor from the Oregon State Penitentiary. Justus F. Krumbein and Gilbert, architects, designed the building.
Construction of the newest building began on December 4, 1936. The third state capitol was completed in 1938 and is the fourth-newest capitol in the United States. The capitol was dedicated on October 1, 1938, with speeches from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Leslie M. Scott, Robert W. Sawyer, and Oregon Governor Charles Henry Martin. Chosen from 123 entries in a countrywide competition, the design of the new building deviated from the normal design of state capitol buildings. The design was labeled a combination of Egyptian simplicity and Greek refinement. Overall it is Art Deco in style, and is one of only three state capitols in the United States constructed in that architectural style.
Exterior and interior
The Oregon State Capitol is home to both branches of the state legislature, the House and Senate, and has offices for the governor, treasurer, and the secretary of state. In its center, the floor of the prominent rotunda features an embedded Oregon State Seal sculpted in bronze by Ulric Ellerhusen. Ellerhusen also sculpted the Oregon Pioneer that rests atop the capitol dome's exterior. The dome rises 106 feet (32 m) above the state seal. The interior of the dome was painted by Frank H. Schwarz and features 33 stars, symbolizing Oregon's place as the 33rd state to join the Union. Eight medallions are painted near the top of the walls of the rotunda that represent the eight objects in the state seal.