Fifty State Capitols: (2nd Edition) The Architecture of Representative Government

By Jim Stembridge. Softcover, 128 pages, photos.
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The formality, timelessness, and public grandeur of representative government are on display at every one of America's fifty state capitols. Fifty State Capitols describes the majesty and stateliness of each capitol's exterior form and selected interior details in words and photographs. State governments, headquartered in their iconic capitol buildings, have been governing continuously--and largely democratically, peacefully, and openly--for more than two centuries, a record difficult to match in the history of civilization.

Fifty State Capitols shows how the architecture of state capitols contributes to the success of representative government. Elements common to the ideal American state capitol are a prominent site with manicured grounds; legislative chambers in opposing wings; public galleries with views of each legislative chamber; a temple-like entrance; and a central dome or tower covering a majestic central space known as the rotunda.

The architects who designed the buildings--including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Bulfinch, Elijah Myers, and Cass Gilbert--looked for forms and features symbolic of democracy, finding them most often in ancient Greece and Rome, in the columns, pediments, and porticos of the Parthenon in Athens, and the Patheon in Rome. Jim Stembridge visited each of America's state capitols to document the elements that Jefferson, Bulfinch, Meyers, Gilbert, and other designers put into their works.

The result is this collection of exterior views, interior photographs, and pithy narratives featuring every one of the fifty state capitols. Employed for many years as a policy analyst in Oregon's capitol in Salem, Jim Stembridge saw how the building's shape and structure facilitated deliberation and decision-making on important issues of the day. Elected representatives of the citizenry argue, debate, deliberate and make the decisions, he found, but they do so within the context of the building that is the state's capitol. Stembridge went traveling to see how each of the fifty state capitols exhibits the classical ideals of democracy and democratically elected representative government.

The 2nd edition, published in 2019, contains updated photographs, the author's photos of classical structures in Europe (origins of American designs), text re-writes--including descriptions of recent capitol renovations, along with a map of a driving route connecting all fifty state capitols.

Softcover, 128 pages, photos.