My husband, daughter, and I recently had a rare weekday off together. We decided to wander around downtown Raleigh, with the goal of finding a new spot for me to take some cityscape images.
Yet, we mysteriously ended up taking a self-guided tour of the state capitol building. I say it was a mystery but my husband is a political scientist so this isn’t the first time a family day trip turned into impromptu government history lessons!
The three-story stone building features Greek revival-style architecture and is a national historic landmark. Opened in 1840, it has served as the site of the NC legislature and the NC Supreme Court, and now houses offices for the Governor and his immediate staff.
It was built using local stone and, according to the National Park Service, cost more than six times the state’s revenue at the time. With its rotunda, the plethora of arches, and chambers and libraries tucked into corners, the internal architecture is more impressive than the gray and tan stone facade.
The interior layout has remained largely the same since the building was constructed, allowing you to imagine the legislature convening there in the mid-1800s, while the state geologist worked down the hall from the state library. The books on the shelves and tables in the old state library had titles like The Problem of Human Life Here and Hereafter.
The scene looked as if the state librarian had been left for the evening more than a century ago, never to return preserving everything exactly where it was,
The visit gave me ample opportunity to practice my architectural photography, using available light and a handheld camera. It is always a challenge to compose shots in a public building without causing a disruption or getting left behind. The conditions forced me to make quick, confident decisions with my settings and to find a story in my surroundings.
One of my favorite photos from the visit was taken through the window on the second floor of the building. In the image, shown in the center of the top of the collage at the top of this post, the grounds, a city street, and construction on a new high-rise are visible.
With a stone path on the grounds appearing to lead into a modern stay street, the image captures the past, present, and future of North Carolina’s capital city.