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Capitol Square Landscape

Capitol Square Landscape

Capitol Square’s nationally-recognized historic landscape is an essential element of the Capitol experience. The monuments throughout Capitol Square represent specific eras and iconic Virginians associated with them. With the completion of an important restoration of the Capitol and the Executive Mansion in the last decade, restoration of the surrounding park is the next logical step, readying the complex for the 2016 bicentennial celebration of Capitol Square. The plan will rehabilitate one of the oldest enclosed public parks in our nation by reclaiming components of early and mid19th-century landscape designs, including the John Notman picturesque style, which predates New York’s Central Park by more than a decade. The Square’s preservation is fundamental to the Capitol’s integrity as an historic resource.

Capitol Square Map, circa 1876, highlighting the John Notman landscape design
Capitol Square Map, circa 1876, highlighting the John Notman landscape design

The Executive Mansion Kitchen

The Executive Mansion Kitchen

The cottage outside of the Governor's Mansion where the restored kitchen is located
The cottage outside of the Governor’s Mansion where the restored kitchen is located
Virginia’s Executive Mansion is the oldest governor’s residence in the United States which continues to serve its original purpose. Every day, the mansion welcomes groups, ranging from school children to international dignitaries, who explore its historic spaces. The kitchen dependency, constructed in 1813 and adjacent to the Mansion, will be restored and interpreted to tell the stories of the individuals, including enslaved persons, who served Governors and their families in the 19th-century.

Educational Programs and Exhibits

Educational Programs and Exhibits

Educational exhibits on display in the Capitol extension
Educational exhibits on display in the Capitol extension
This campaign will fund the development of programs and interactive experiences aimed at educating current and future generations on the ideals of liberty, representative government, and civic engagement. In addition, the projects will remind visitors of the pivotal role Virginia has played in the founding of America’s form of government. Focus areas will include significant milestones in Virginia history, representative government in action, and the compelling stories of influential, though often less celebrated, individuals.

“Mantle” – Virginia Indian Tribute on Virginia’s Capitol Square

“Mantle” – Virginia Indian Tribute on Virginia’s Capitol Square


Virginia Indian Tribute

A monument planned for Capitol Square

Native peoples have lived in this land we know as Virginia, for thousands of years. Despite hardships brought about by the loss of their land, language, and civil rights, many Virginia tribes persisted and their members have continued to contribute to the Commonwealth through agriculture, land stewardship, teaching, military and civic service, the arts, and other avenues.

In recognition of their lasting legacy

Concept Illustration of the "Mantle" monument ©Alan Michelson
Concept Illustration of the “Mantle” monument ©Alan Michelson

and significance, as well as to ensure that the rich and inspiring stories of our native peoples will endure, the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission was established by the General Assembly and the Governor with the purpose of erecting a permanent monument on Capitol Square. Following a competition that attracted artists from across the country, Alan Michelson’s design, Mantle, was chosen to represent the Virginia Indian Tribes, past and present.

Oriented to the earth and incorporating existing trees in the area, Mantle combines four integrated spiral elements to create the shape of a Nautilus, a shell which represents strength, knowledge of the past, continuous growth, and beauty. The inspiration for the shape originated with the embellishments on a ceremonial robe, or mantle, worn by Powhatan, the paramount chief. A five-foot wide winding footpath following the outline of the monument will serve as a labyrinth which in some Indian cultures represents a sacred path to the home of an ancestor. In addition to the path will be a continuous, smooth stone wall, which also serves as a bench.

slide3In the communal center of the monument in honor of the river culture of the tribes will be a circular waterfall with a shape inspired by the “peak” shells which were highly prized by Virginia Indians. The Indian names of Virginia rivers will be arranged in a spoke pattern radiating from the center. Natural landscaping throughout the monument will consist of a selection of perennial native plant species, including wildflowers.

Mantle will serve as a meditation space where visitors can either walk the labyrinth or sit and contemplate. It will also be a gathering spot where groups can formally or informally assemble. As a communal area, Mantle creates a respectful relationship with the surrounding natural world, reflecting the positive values, which set the Indians apart from other cultures. Finally, through state-of-the-art educational programs developed, Mantle will serve as a vehicle to educate the community by bringing awareness of the history and culture of the Virginia Indians.

To see more details about the Monument and please visit the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission Website.

You can also Subscribe to receive meeting notifications concerning the Virginia Indian Tribute Monument from the General Assembly’s Interim Studies page.

Capitol Square Fair a Success!


Virginia Capitol Square Preservation Council was pleased to host the Virginia Capitol Square Fair, a community outreach and education event on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The event was a partnership with non-profit and public educators to offer families and visitors an array of history and conservation learning opportunities and to explore Virginia’s history and the natural environment. This event was free and open to the public and located on the historic grounds of the State Capitol to celebrate the Bicentennial of Capitol Square. Free parking was provided for all visitors.

Partners across the commonwealth highlighted their important work by providing engaging, SOL-based activities for children and families. While this event was focused on the outdoors, the Virginia State Capitol was open for tours and self-guided opportunities. Visitors had the opportunity to talk with Thomas Jefferson on why he designed the Capitol the way he did, hear Patrick Henry’s famous speech, and walk the historic grounds with Maggie Walker. Along with our special guests, visitors participated in a Capitol Police equipment and K9 demonstration, discovered how to maintain a healthy habitat in their own backyard, and searched for artifacts while learning the power of archaeology to uncover our past. We sincerely thank the following organizations for providing exciting activities: The Valentine Museum, National Park Service, Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Department of Historic Resources, Department of Forestry, Children’s Museum of Richmond, John Marshall House, James Monroe Museum, St. John’s, Montpeleier, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Henricus Historical Park, Preservation Virginia, Commonwealth Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Wilton House Museum, Fairfield Foundation, Library of Virginia, The Division Capitol Police Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia Executive Mansion.

We also thank all students, teachers, and visitors who came to enjoy the Virginia Capitol Square Fair.
Please contact the Capitol Square Preservation Council Education Coordinator, Maggie Jackson, with any questions by phone at (804) 225-8051 or by email.



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Capitol Square is part of the Richmond Garden Trail

Among the oldest in the nation, this 12-acre park is home to the National Historic Landmark Virginia State Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson, the oldest purpose-built U.S executive mansion still serving as a governor’s residence, and many monuments and memorials. Walk winding paths in a landscape that has both seen and shaped American history.


Garden secret: This park has an empty crypt. The George Washington Equestrian Monument was to be the President’s final resting place, but he remains buried at his Mount Vernon home.

Learn more about the Richmond Garden Trail

Hours and Days of Operation

The Capitol building is open to visitors from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Self-Guided tours are available during operating hours each day our Capitol Visitors Brochure will help you get started.

Free one-hour guided tours begin Monday through Saturday no later than 10:00 a.m. for walk-in visitors (9:00 a.m. for groups by appointment), with the last tour commencing at 4:00 p.m. On Sunday, guided tours are available beginning at 1:00 p.m., with the last tour commencing at 4:00 p.m. In addition, self-guided tours are available during operating hours each day.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Capitol Use Policies

The Virginia Capitol, one of the most historic structures in the Western Hemisphere, every year welcomes thousands of Virginia citizens and visitors from around the country and throughout the world. The Virginia Capitol is unique among historic sites because it also is a working government building. It is important to respect and safeguard the historic nature of the Capitol as well as preserve the public’s access to their government without impeding the day-to-day operations of state government and the conduct of the people’s business.

In accordance with local, state, and federal laws, rules, and regulations, interim rules regarding the Capitol and the House and Senate galleries have been established jointly by the Clerk of the House and the Clerk of the Senate at the direction of the General Assembly’s Committee on Joint Rules.

Capitol, Gallery and Mezzanine Use Policy – House

Capitol, Gallery and Mezzanine Use Policy – Senate

Groups interested in holding an event on Capitol Square will need a permit. Please see the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Division of Engineering and Buildings (DEB) webpage for information on obtaining these permits.