508 (ACCESSIBLE) SECTION OF VIRTUAL TOURS
AT THE VIRGINIA STATE CAPITOL WEBSITE


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VIRTUAL HOME

SOL/Educational
Historical
Restoration
FAQs


Welcome to Virginia's Virtual State Capitol.

While in the "Virtual Capitol" part of this website, you can tour the inside of the Capitol by viewing videos or by clicking on the "Explore this Room" button. This button allows you to navigate, or "walk," around rooms and explore in more detail items that are of interest to you.

When exploring the "Virtual Grounds" part of this website, you can see how the Capitol's landscape has changed through time. There are educational videos and interactive maps in this area. "Points of Interest" inside the Capitol and on the Capitol Grounds are designated with a star icon. Be sure to visit the FAQs section at the top right of this page if you still have questions.

For visitors with special needs:
An accessible segment of this website has been created for those visitors who use technology other than standard web browsers to view web content. This segment of the website contains all of the same information, made more accessible than the default visual presentation that is seen when first visiting the virtual tours areas.

We hope you enjoy your Virtual Visit to Virginia's State Capitol!

There is nothing like experiencing the Capitol in person, and tours are given daily. If you would like to schedule a tour, please call 804-698-1788.


SOL/Educational

For the benefit of teachers, those interested in learning, or students like me, points of interest which have Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) significance are indicated with the apple & book icon on them.

When you scroll to the bottom of a text description for an item, you will see a link to the related SOL content. A complete listing of all SOL-related content is available in PDF format.

You can tour the Capitol and grounds through videos or by clicking on the "Explore this Room" button, which allows you to virtually "walk" around the room and explore in more detail items that are of interest to you. To learn more about the other Capitol Perspectives, please click on the Virginians to my right.

I hope you enjoy your Virtual Visit to Virginia's State Capitol!



Historical

Hello, I'm Thomas Jefferson. Welcome to Virginia's Virtual State Capitol.

My design for the State Capitol was inspired by the Maison Carrée, a first-century Classical Roman temple in Nîmes, France. As Governor, I advocated moving the state capital to the more-readily defensible site on Shockoe Hill, just west of the town of Richmond. In 1785, while serving as Minister to France, I consulted with architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau to work out the details of adapting the design of the Maison Carrée to suit the needs of Virginia's government.

Even before leaving for France, I determined that a temple-form building would be the model for the State Capitol. I believe that well-executed architecture has the ability to elevate human thought. As I refined my plans in September 1785, I wrote to my friend James Madison, "But how is a taste in this beautiful art to be formed in our countrymen, unless we avail ourselves of every occasion when public buildings are to be erected, of presenting to them models for their study and imitation?"

You can view videos of the Capitol and explore on your own. Throughout the Virtual Capitol and Capitol Grounds, points of interest which have historical significance are indicated with the Quill Pen and Paper icon.

To learn more about the other Capitol Perspectives, please click on the Virginians to my left and my right.

Thank you and enjoy your Virtual Visit of Virginia's State Capitol!

Restoration

Welcome to Virginia's Virtual State Capitol.

As part of the 2004-07 restoration team, I would like to highlight the historical treasures of the Capitol and Capitol Grounds as well as recent innovations to these areas.

You can view videos of the Capitol and explore on your own. Throughout the Virtual Capitol and Capitol Grounds, points of interest which have been restored or were part of the 2004-07 Capitol Expansion Project are indicated with the Shovel icon.

To learn more about the other Capitol Perspectives, please click on the Virginians to my left.

Thank you and enjoy your Virtual Visit of Virginia's State Capitol!



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Which Standards of Learning (SOLs) are related to the Virginia State Capitol and Capitol Grounds? There is much SOL content that relates to items in the the Virginia State Capitol Building and the Capitol Grounds. It can be found in pop-ups or links from within the virtual tours areas. A complete listing of all SOL items that relate to the State Capitol, Capitol Grounds, and virtual tours website is available in PDF format.

How was the painting Storming of a British Redoubt by American Troops at Yorktown brought into the Old Senate Chamber? The painting and frame were brought in separately and reassembled in the room.

Who painted Storming of a British Redoubt by American Troops at Yorktown and when was it painted? It was painted about 1840 by the French artist Eugene Louis Lami.

How tall is Houdon's statue of George Washington? The statue stands 6-feet 2.5-inches tall, which is a life-size representation of George Washington.

Did Washington ever see his statue? It is unlikely. Washington’s last recorded visit to Richmond was in April 1791. The statue wasn't unveiled until five years later in May, 1796. The statue was viewed by many of Washington's contemporaries, all of whom attested to its perfect likeness to George Washington.

How much did Houdon's statue cost? Approximately 40,000 French livres, or 1,600 English gold guineas, which are the equivalent of about 5,000 dollars. This low figure includes Houdon's travel expenses and a life insurance policy taken out to persuade him to make the long journey to the United States. He was paid in three installments. A final reconciliation was not made until the early 1800s.

Does the 18-ton weight of Washington's statue include the base? Yes.

What is the significance of the missing buttons on Washington's waistcoat? We do not know for certain. However, some experts believe that this was done to reinforce the idea that Washington was a man of the people, as imperfect as anyone else. Houdon, Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were responsible for planning the details of the statue.

What caused the chip on the flap on George Washington's pocket? We do not know for certain, but the statue may have sustained damage when castings were taken from it in order to make bronze (and some plaster) copies. Castings of the original statue are no longer permitted. Another explanation might be that the damage occurred when the statue was moved from the Rotunda. This happened at least twice, in 1872 and again in 1904.

Where did Washington get his military training? While he had no formal military education, Washington gained much of his training and experience serving as an aide to British General Braddock in the French and Indian (Seven Years') War on Virginia's western frontier.

Did Washington have wooden teeth? He had several sets of dentures, but none were made of wood. One set included one of his own teeth, plus various animal teeth and ivory from hippopotami and elephants.

How was the Washington statue brought into the Capitol? The statue was shipped in three cases, presumably the figure, the pedestal, and the base for the pedestal. These were probably reassembled in the Capitol.

How old was Houdon when he sculpted the statue? In his 40s.

Is the statue of Robert E. Lee found in the Old Hall of the House of Delegates life-size? No. It is literally “larger than life.” Lee was about 5 feet 11 inches tall and the statue, created by Rudulph Evans in 1931, is just over 6 feet 4 inches.

Were Richard Henry Lee and Robert E. Lee related? Yes. They were first cousins twice removed, from different lines and generations of the Lee family in Virginia.

What command did Robert E. Lee receive in the Old Hall of the House of Delegates in 1861? Governor John Letcher gave Lee command of the military and naval forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This was a state, not a Confederate, command. Lee would be given command of Confederate troops in Virginia later on, despite his stated preference for a state commission.

What was the Capitol Disaster? On April 27, 1870, the floor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which at the time met on the Capitol's third floor, collapsed, causing the people and contents in the courtroom to fall into the Hall of the House of Delegates below. Sixty-two people lost their lives and 251 were injured. The building was reoccupied 6 months later after necessary repairs and remodeling.

Was the Capitol damaged or burned at the end of the Civil War? No. The building stood inside a 12-acre public park which served as a firebreak. Refugees fleeing from the fires along the waterfront gathered in Capitol Square and kept an eye on the building. The departing Confederate troops spared the building because it had served as the Capitol of the Confederacy.

Why was Aaron Burr tried for treason? Why in Richmond? Aaron Burr was accused of trying to start a war with Spain (a high misdemeanor), and of trying to use military force to overcome recognized U.S. authority in the American West (treason). Since the conspiracy was said to have been developed on an Ohio River island then a part of Virginia, the trial took place in the Federal Circuit Court (meeting at Richmond) with jurisdiction over that island.

Why is the bust of Chief Justice John Marshall, found in the Old Hall of the House of Delegates, wearing a toga? This was a popular artistic convention when the original bust was made in 1834. This copy dates from 1850. It was thought by many that important people should be depicted in Roman attire, thus associating them with classical heroes from antiquity.

Is the furniture original to the Old Hall of the House of Delegates Chamber? The majority of the furniture in the room is not original. The matching walnut desks and chairs were made in 1929. The desks copied from an original desk now in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy. The colonial Speaker's chair on the platform was reproduced from the original chair by a Colonial Williamsburg cabinet maker in 1962 and presented to the Virginia Assembly in 1964. However, the original Speaker's chair used in this room in the 1890s is on display next to the bust of John Marshall. The two rolltop desks are circa 1905.

How are all of the Harrisons related? The Harrison family is a prominent political family in U.S. history. Benjamin Harrison V was the Governor of Virginia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His son, William Henry, was the 9th President of the United States. William Henry's grandson, Benjamin (born in Ohio), was the 23rd President of the United States.

How much does the mace weigh? How much did it cost? It weighs in excess of 10 pounds. It was purchased by the Jamestown Foundation in 1974 for about 5,000 dollars.

Are the chandeliers original to the Old Hall of the House of Delegates? No, they were added in 1929 when the Hall was restored as a period room museum. In the mid-19th century there were evidently three chandeliers in this Hall.

What is the Old Hall of the House of Delegates used for today? Daily tours and special events. Historical and fraternal organizations hold ceremonies here by prior appointment with the House Clerk. Movie and television projects have been filmed in this room.

How much of the woodwork in the early Capitol is original? Research in 2003 indicates much of the woodwork in the Old Senate Chamber, the Rotunda entrance pediments, and gallery railing on the third floor, as well as woodwork on the walls of the Old Hall of the House of Delegates, is late 18th or early 19th century in origin. Woodwork in the hallway leading from the Rotunda to the South portico is early 20th-century work. White pine, yellow pine and tulip poplar have been used.

Was the interior of the Capitol designed by Jefferson? Yes, but his arrangement of rooms has been altered over the years. Jefferson placed the Supreme Court of Appeals room and House of Delegates Chamber on the second floor and the Senate and Governor's Council Chambers on the third floor. The judicial branch is no longer located in the building and the size and function of many interior spaces in the original Capitol have been altered in the last two centuries.

Where is the old, original Capitol? From 1780 until 1788, the Assembly met in "the public buildings," i.e., two wooden commercial buildings on the west side of 14th Street north of Cary Street near the waterfront.

Why was capital moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg and later to Richmond? The capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg in 1699 after the fourth state house burned, in order to be located on higher, drier, healthier ground with room for future growth. The capital was relocated from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780 because Richmond was "more safe and central than any other town situated on navigable water."

Is the dome original to the building? No. It was added 5 or 6 years after the building was first occupied, shortly after the original flat roof was changed to a gable roof.

What year was the Executive Mansion built? Completed in 1813, it is the nation's oldest Executive Mansion in continuous use.

Did Jefferson live in the existing Executive's Mansion? No. He lived in a rented house belonging to Colonel Thomas Turpin, which stood slightly south of the present mansion.

What is Lafayette's significance in Virginia? Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, came to America at his own expense to serve as a volunteer in the U.S. Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was instrumental in protecting Richmond from a British attack in April 1781 while serving as Major General commanding the army of the United States in Virginia. In addition, Lafayette was a member of Washington's staff and was known to be in very good graces with the highly venerated General and President.

How many children did Lafayette have? What were their names? One son, George Washington Lafayette, and two daughters, Anastasia and Virginia.

How did Stonewall Jackson develop into such an outstanding general? Jackson graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, served in the Mexican War, and was a professor at Virginia Military Institute, all of which contributed to his renowned military skills. In addition, his discipline and determination, he expected everyone around him to perform at their very best. Reflected in his well-know statement, "You may be whatever you resolve to be," were instrumental to his success.

Why did the Confederates burn their own city? On April 2, 1865, Confederate soldiers set selective fires to destroy Confederate public property (including tobacco) and munitions. The Capitol was spared, however, because it had served as the Capitol of the Confederate government. The fires spread out of control and were extinguished by Northern troops entering the city on April 3.

Where did the lawmakers meet between 1904 and 1906? They did not meet. At that time, the Assembly only met every other year and construction of the east and west wings was timed to fall between the 1904 and 1906 legislative sessions.

How many legislators were there in 1788 and how many are there today? There were 170 Delegates and 24 Senators in 1788. Today there are 100 Delegates and 40 Senators.

Are Harry Flood Byrd, Jr. and Senator Robert Byrd related? They are not related.