The Capitol

Virginia Association of Museums

Even if you're not a history nerd, a quick stop to the Capitol is worth your time, if only to pay respects to some of the brightest founding members of this country. Richmond is the third home of the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest ongoing state legislature in the country. Placed at the top of Shockoe Hill, the Capitol overlooks the falls of the James River.

In 1779, at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson urged the Virginia General Assembly to move the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. Jefferson continued to be involved with the construction of the capitol even when he served as ambassador to France in the 1780s. Although he was a self-taught architect, Jefferson created a scale model for the other directors to show how the three branches of Virginia's government (legislative, executive, and judicial) could combine so that all three buildings were in the same location.

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Jefferson hired French architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau to help with the project. They modeled the capitol after Maison Carrée, a Roman Temple in Nimes, France. Many people consider the temple a model of perfect classical design. Construction on Jefferson’s capitol was slow-paced, and the stucco-clad brick building finished in 1800. Today, visitors at the Capitol can see the various nods to Virginians throughout American history such as George Washington, Stonewall Jackson, and even Edgar Allan Poe. Yet perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the capitol was its symbolic departure of British architecture and embrace of neoclassical styles. WWTW says of Jefferson's goals:

The Virginia State Capitol was Jefferson’s declaration of independence from British architecture. Its influence is seen in more than two centuries of neoclassical government and commercial buildings across America, from local banks and post offices to the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C

Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr.

Virginia Association of Museums
Written By Virginia Association of Museums

The Virginia Association of Museums provides advocacy, professional education, and support to the Virginia and Washington, DC museum community.

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