The Georgia State Capitol, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located in downtown Atlanta. Nearby are many of the city's downtown attractions, including Turner Field, Oakland Cemetery, the Georgia Dome, CNN Center, the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park. The Capitol can be easily reached from either the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector or Interstate 20. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has several train stations within walking distance of the building.
The State Capitol was completed in 1889. The National Park Service says of the building, "In style, form, and plan, it is a perfect expression and symbol of the idea of a Capitol building for the `Capital of the New South,' as Atlanta was called after Reconstruction.'' Constructed in the Neo-Classical Renaissance Revival style, the building's main entrance is a four-story, pedimented portico with Corinthian columns. The structure is domed and plated with gold leaf mined in Georgia. A statue of Freedom tops the dome, holding a lighted lantern over her head. The interior of the building has an open rotunda with Georgia marble staircases sweeping up on either side. The legislative chambers are paneled in oak with highly detailed carvings. The grounds of the Capitol are landscaped with trees that are native to Georgia.
In 2004, a ten-year restoration of the Capitol was completed, returning it, as much as possible, to its original state. The restoration was done meticulously, with great attention to historical accuracy. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "the National Park Service sent experts to photograph every inch of the building. Using those photos, historical documents, architectural drawings, old black-and-white photographs and written descriptions, the experts made drawings that were used to guide much of the work.'' The original marble and brass work have been cleaned and replicas made where pieces had been lost. The original paint colors are in use again. The legislative chambers were redone to regain some of their lost splendor. The AJC says, "The Capitol's simple beauty has slowly re-emerged. With a few exceptions ... it now looks much as it did more than a century ago.''
Tours of the Capitol are available which include an explanation of the Capitol's history and the legislative process that goes on there. The tour then goes to the fourth floor, where visitors can take a self-guided tour through the Georgia Capitol Museum. For schoolchildren, the museum is the highlight of the trip. "Where's the two-headed calf?'' is the most frequently heard question. Yes, a two-headed calf, and there's a two-headed snake, too. The AJC quotes museum director Dorothy Olson: "`They're not my favorites things,' said Olson, laughing. But she has a begrudging appreciation of them because they're wildly popular with the 50,000 or so students who tour the Capitol every year.'' The museum also exhibits more serious items from Georgia's history, geology and industry.
Reviewers on popular travel websites are positive about the Georgia State Capitol, if not overwhelming. The consensus is that it is an interesting and educational couple of hours for the kids after seeing some of the city's more exciting attractions. One visitor said, "While it is not the most interesting sight in Atlanta, it definitely is a good place to spend an hour or two if you are into history or architecture. The building is ... amazing.'' Another sums it up, noting, "This is a great free place to visit where kids can learn a lot about how government works.''