Located in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Capitol is a public building and the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Over 100,000 people per year enjoy a free tour of this building, which was built at a cost of $13 million after the original building burned down in 1897. Car parking is available within a two block radius of the State Capitol.
The current site was dedicated in 1906 by the then State Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker with President Teddy Roosevelt describing it as "the handsomest building I ever saw". The capitol dome was modeled on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and is 272 feet high, weighing 52 million pounds. For 80 years following its completion, the Capitol was the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
There are strict security checks at the entrances so visitors are advised to allow an extra 15 minutes in their schedules to accommodate this, and they must use the public entrances. All visitors have to be screened through metal detectors with bags and packages x-rayed and checked by hand. Entry will be denied to visitors refusing to undergo the security screening procedures.
The Welcome Center gives visitors an opportunity to learn about how state government works with 18 informative and interactive exhibits. Located on the east wing of the Capitol this center explains how laws are made and gives information how to contact representatives in the House and Senate. The center is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm and is accessible for visitors with special needs.
The Capitol building is an Italian Renaissance-style statehouse and contains collections of art, sculpture and large murals. Tiles on the floor of the main hallway depict the history of Pennsylvania, as well as having images of, insects and animals, whilst the impressive staircase takes inspiration from those seen in Parisian Opera Houses. The Forum building is a short walk across a plaza and houses the State Library, a Law Library and a genealogical search room for visitors.
Guided tours of the Capitol are provided every half an hour to view the art and architecture of the building. These run from 8.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 9-11am and 1-3pm at weekend and most public holidays. School groups are welcomed and are given the chance to experience the "Pass the Bill" skit during the tour, which is for students between the ages of 8 and 12.
Visitors wanting to eat on site can obtain food from the Capitol's cafeteria or alternatively there is seating available for up to 192 people in the East Wing for visitors bringing their own lunch, but these must be reserved in advance. People can also reserve this area for other events or for catering preparation areas for functions with food in the East Wing Rotunda. Visitors can round off their trip with a visit to the souvenir shop located off the East Wing Rotunda and open Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm.