The Michigan State Capitol building is a National Historic Landmark, and has served as the seat of Michigan's state government since the building was completed in 1878 at a cost of $1.2 million.
The building was designed by Elijah E. Myers, and its successful completion established his reputation as the leading capitol-builder in the post-Civil War era and one of the country's most renowned architects of public facilities.
Myers was one of the first architects to model his designs on the national capitol in Washington, D.C. His "Neoclassical Renaissance'' - or "Italianate'' - design for the Michigan Capitol set the standard for state capitols for decades. The name of his design is Tuebor, which translates to "I will defend.''
The design also provided the inspiration for a national trend after the Civil War to fireproof buildings. The Capitol was contructed to not only house a state government that was growing in both complexity and size, but also to serve as a memento of the war itself.
Once the building was dedicated and occupied, the interior embellishment continued over the course of several years. This embellisment included the extensive use of decorative and architectural painting, which was so elaborate and skillful that it still ranks as one of the finest examples of the Victorian decorative arts in the United States.
From 1987 to 1992, the building underwent an extensive historical renovation. This included restoring the interior, along with its 139 rooms, and the exterior to their original appearance, as well as upgrading and adapting the building to serve as Michigan's permanent state capitol.
The building is located at the intersection of Capitol and Michigan Avenues in Michigan's state capital, Lansing. At one time, the building was large enough to house the state's government agencies and departments. Now, the building houses only the legislative and executive branches of Michigan's state government, as well as the ceremonial offices of the state's governor and lieutenant governor. On the ground floor can be found several offices, such as the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House.
The present building is the third to house the Michigan state government. The first state capitol was located in Detroit, which was the original capital of Michigan. The capital was relocated westward to Lansing in 1847 to be more defensible from Brittish troops stationed in Windsor, Ontario, and to develop the western portions of the state.
The Capitol building stands 267 feet from the ground to the tip of the spire atop its dome, and is 420 feet, two inches long and 273 feet and 11 inches wide, including its approaches. The Capitol occupies 1.167 acres and has a perimeter of 1,520 feet.
There are four stories, two grand staircases in the north and south corridors that go to the top floor. Two of the most distinctive characteristics of the Capitol are its dome (inside and out), and the statue of Civil War Governor Austin Blair that greets visitors at the front of the building. Blair was a Michigan politican who strongly opposed slavery and secession, and a champion of human rights, the effort to ban capital punishment, and the efforts to give women and Black citizens the right to vote.
The exterior dome originally matched the light tan color of the building, but was repainted a bright white during the building's renovation. On the inside, the cast-iron dome presides over the eight muses on the ceiling display. On the north wall of the first floor resides a large clock, known as a "long-drop clock.'' The clock is at least as old as the building itself, and was restored to working condition in 1990.
Another of the building's noteworthy features is its cornerstone, which has the date 1872 on one side and 1878 on the other, marking the start of construction and the building's completion. On the grounds nearby can be found the state tree of Michigan, an Eastern White Pine, a blue spruce called "The Freedom Tree'' in memorial to the Vietnam War's MIAs and POWs, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tree planted in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.