As a teenager in western Pennsylvania, Texas may as well have been on a whole other planet. The first time I saw a photo of the Texas Capitol building was in a Seventeen magazine from 1993. Wiley Wiggins was giving a tour of Austin and the caption under the image of the Capitol read something like “Home of the most righteous Texan of all: Governor Ann Richards.”
I never could have imagined I’d live here 22 years later.
But here I am, working on my third year as a Texan. I’m still checking off historical items off my Bucket List and the Capitol tour looms as large as its Sunset Granite dome. So Lucy and I took advantage of a beautiful Good Friday holiday to check this one off of the list.
First up is my standard parking anxiety any time I venture downtown. Fortunately, there is ample street parking in the area along with well-marked garage parking. You can check out a parking map here.
Guided tours of the Capitol are free and start every half-hour on the :15 and :45. They begin at the south entrance right outside the Treasurer’s Business Office and last about 30 to 45 minutes. Or you can pick up a brochure and do a self-guided tour but then you would miss out on the fabulous boots the guides wear; I’m kicking myself—with my not-as-fabulous footwear—for not getting a photo!
Rather than go through every piece of the tour —you should do that yourself—here are some fun facts that may be doctrine to you natives but new to us transplants:
- Texas was ruled by six different entities: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States of America, Confederacy
- The rotunda of the Capitol is 218 feet high
|That tiny star at the top of the dome is actually 8 feet from tip to tip.|
|The six seals represent the six flags of Texas|
- The photos of the governors of Texas in the rotunda are moved when a new portrait is installed—all four levels of portraits.
- The seal of Texas is everywhere, from the floors to the ceilings to the doorknobs to the door hinges.
- The light fixtures in both the Senate and House of Representatives chambers are in the shape of stars. Look closer and you realize the stars actually spell out TEXAS.
- The bulk of the Capitol is underground in the extension that was built in the 1990s.
- The Texas limestone and red marble were both quarried within 50 miles of Austin.
- The Battle of the Alamo was not where Texas won its independence; that was the Battle of San Jacinto. Both battles are depicted in detail in paintings hung in the Senate Chambers.
- The only known flag from the Battle of San Jacinto hangs behind the Speaker’s seat in the House of Representatives chamber.
- The tour lasts long enough to hold a 5-year-old’s attention as long as you arrive at the meeting spot right when it begins.
- There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the north side of the Capitol.
The Texas Capitol is the largest state capitol building in the U.S.,—even standing taller than the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.—proving the known truth that everything really is bigger in Texas!
When we moved here, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to adjust to being a Texan. Any time I do a tour like this, I feel closer to reaching native status. With 157 people moving to Austin daily, I can only hope others feel the same sense of pride once they take in the rich history of the Lone Star State.
About the author: After growing up in Pittsburgh and bouncing around The West, Lisa Caldwell settled in Austin in 2012 with her husband and daughter with the dream of eating tacos for the majority of her meals. In her spare time, she writes at Hip-Baby Mama.
*This article originally appeared on LiveMom.com