As promised, here’s part 2 of our tour through the South. This trek took us north through Arkansas, stopping in the state capitol, Little Rock. You can read about the Mississippi capitol building here. Now it’s time to take a peek at Arkansas and its state capitol building.
If you’re anything like me, you wonder about Arkansas. Why is it pronounced Ar-kan-saw and not Ark-kan-sas (and why isn’t Kansas pronounced Kan-saw?)? Is there anything that makes the state unique? Stereotypes would have us believe that Arkansas is only inhabited by beer-drinking, pick-up-truck-driving, gun-toting, barefoot, illiterate “Bubba” rednecks.
In reality, Arkansas is beautiful with the Ozark hills in the north, lakes, forests, and rich agricultural areas. It’s definitely considered “Southern” but has extremes in weather with hot, humid summers as well as winter ice storms. The state is part of “Tornado Alley.” And did you know, Arkansas is the only place in the world with an open-to-the-public diamond mine?
The name Arkansas reflects both Native American and French heritage. French explorers referred to the Native Americans living in the north part of the state as Arkansaes or South Wind. It is believed the name Arkansas also stems from the French interpretation of the Sioux word acansa, meaning “downstream place.”
Arkansas was admitted to the union as the 25th state on June 15, 1836. It was the 13th slave state. The state was a key player in the Texas war for independence from Mexico by sending troops and materials to them to help fight the war. Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861, but refused to join the Confederate States of America until after President Lincoln called for troops to respond to the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter, SC.
Enough history…back to the capitol. Once again, as Entrepreneur was meeting with high-ranking decision makers, I was taking the opportunity to see what kind of building was designed for the 25th state. This building took me completely by surprise. As one drives down Capitol Street, this is what stands before you at the end of the road. Four hundred and forty feet of grandness that will take your breath away.
This capitol stands 230 feet from ground to dome, and the cupola on top of the circular central drum tower is 24K golf leaf. It covers 286,000 square feet. The building was designed as a replica of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, and was used as a “stand in” for the movie, Under Siege, in 1985.
Construction began in 1899 and took 16 years. It was built on the site of the state penitentiary and used state prisoners as laborers. I believe in this day and age some would consider that cruel and unusual punishment. Construction costs totaled a cool $2.2 million back then. Today, the building is valued at $320 million.
The six bronze front entrance doors are magnificent. Each standing 10 feet tall, they’re four inches thick and were purchased in 1910 for $10,000 from from Tiffany’s in New York. I cannot even begin to imagine what they would be worth today.
Inside the main color is, in one word…white. And grand doesn’t even begin to describe the surroundings.
The white marble floors and walls came from Vermont; the white third-floor columns from Colorado; the grand white staircases from Alabama. The solid brass chandelier hanging in the center of the dome is 12 feet in diameter. The limestone exterior walls were quarried from Batesville, Arkansas, and the dome is made of limestone from Indiana.
The 90+ acres of capitol grounds contain a Monument to Confederate Soldiers, Liberty Bell replica, Bauxite and Granite Boulders, Confederate War Prisoners Memorial, Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Arkansas Medal of Honor Memorial, Memorial Fountain, Monument to Confederate Women and Little Rock Nine Civil Rights Memorial. By the time I toured the inside and snapped some pics of the outside, I was dripping wet from the humidity and didn’t have the energy (or a change of clothes) to walk around the outside grounds! If I ever find myself in Little Rock again on a cooler day, it’s on my list of things to see.
So, it’s obvious that The Natural State is made up of anything but hillbillies and rednecks. I’m sure you could find some if you look hard enough, but remember, this is the state that brought us the music of Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, the poetry of Maya Angelou, the pitching arm of Hall-of-Famer Dizzy Dean, and the acting talent of Mary Steenburgen. And we cannot forget Arkansas’s most famous son, Bill Clinton (it doesn’t matter what you think of him, he was obviously talented enough to get to the Oval Office not once, but twice.)