An insider's look at Texas history | Nearly 8 million visitors from around the state and all over the world have explored Texas history and culture at the Bullock Texas State History Museum since it opened in 2001.
Every two years, 150 elected representatives from across the state gather in this chamber to participate in the privilege that is democracy. They've been doing this since 1888. Since that time, lawmakers and visitors making their first visit to the Capitol have probably paused once inside the House chamber. It takes a moment to absorb the sheer size and magnificence of the oak-filled room. Row upon row of brown leather armchairs embossed with the State of Texas seal fill the floor while public gallery seats surround the entire space.
Located in the west wing of the Capitol, the chamber has been restored to its 1909 appearance. Two of the most historic and beautiful features of the room may not be immediately apparent. Instead of looking around, you have to look up to see them.
Two large brass chandeliers suspended over the representatives' desks were custom-designed for the Capitol when permanent electric lighting was installed in 1890.
Like the other architectural details in the building, these fixtures are marvels of beauty and craftsmanship, designed to the smallest detail. But they also add a dash of glamour to the stately room. Look carefully and you'll see that the lightbulbs in each arm of the five-pointed star design are arranged to form a letter. What do the five lightbulb letters spell? TEXAS.
As in the Senate Chamber, most of the desks in this chamber were created by A.H. Andrews and Company of Chicago in the late 1800s. The desks in the Senate are walnut, but the House desks are made of oak. Like Senate Chamber desks, House desks have also been updated to accommodate phones and laptop computers.
Each representative has the pleasure of sitting in a signature Texas-seal embossed, brown leather chair made especially for this chamber in 1941. Unlike their Senate colleagues, representatives don't speak from their desks but from one of two podiums located at the front and back of the chamber.
Because of the large number of representatives, Texas was one of the first states to abandon traditional voice voting. A mechanical voting system was installed in the House chamber in 1922. During the 1970s, that was replaced by a computerized voting system. Each representative's desk has a panel that allows push-button voting and communication. Members can vote Aye (yes), Nay (no), or PNV (present but not voting). Additional panel buttons alert members to phone calls or requests from the Speaker of the House.
Cover photo credit: Wally Gobetz via flickr