The Kid Zone
Construction of the Capitol
Prior to Construction
The Capitol was built on a site known at the "Mather Block".
This was the highest point of ground within the city limits of Springfield and
it was covered with a magnificent stand of trees. It is for these reasons
that 3 years before ground was broken for the Capitol in 1868, many in the city
wished to use the site for the burial place of Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln, who preferred that the President be interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery,
overruled these plans. She was said to have been favorably impressed when
she and Mr. Lincoln attended the dedication of Oak Ridge on May 24, 1860.
The following paragraphs and image are taken from: Abraham Lincoln, His Great
Funeral Cortege, from Washington City to Springfield, Illinois. With a
History and Description of the National Lincoln Monument, authored by John
Carroll Power in 1872.
It will be remembered that, on the twenty-fourth day of
April, a public meeting was held in Springfield, at which a committee was chosen
to make arrangements for sepulture of the remains of President Lincoln. It will
also be borne in mind that the committee resolved itself into a National Lincoln
A conditional contract had been made for a plat of ground
on which to erect a monument, and the work of constructing a
temporary vault, at the expense of the city, had been commenced. It was
designed to be a resting place for the remains until the monument could be
erected. By men working night and day, through sunshine and rain, it was ready
for use at the appointed time, although the work was not quite completed on the
outside. It was ascertained, on the morning of the fourth, that Mrs. Lincoln
objected to the body of her husband being placed, even temporarily, in the new
vault, on account of the grounds selected. She having expressed her preference
for Oak Ridge Cemetery, it was in compliance with her wishes that the remains
were taken there and deposited in the public receiving vault of the cemetery.
The new vault was on the grounds that have since been purchased and donated by
the city of Springfield to the State of Illinois, upon which the State is now
erecting a Capitol, at an expense of three and a half million dollars. The
vault stood about fifty yards north of the new State House. A cenotaph should,
and doubtless will, be erected on the spot, after the edifice is completed and
the grounds put in proper order. Figure No. 1 was engraved from a drawing of
the vault, preserved by T.J. Dennis, who at the time was Mayor of the city.
Through Historic Repository
into the trench pictured may be seen the walls of the vault which had been prepared in 1865 to receive the remains
of Abraham Lincoln. The distance between the walls, indicated by the
arrows, is eight feet. The man with the shovel is Robert Pedigo of
this city, an employee of the John Doyle company, Jacksonville,
contractors, who dug through the vault while excavating for a conduit from
the power house to the capitol.
This photograph and caption
appeared in the August 2, 1930 edition of the
Illinois State Journal.
Illinois' Sixth Capitol Building
Plans for Illinois' sixth Capitol submitted by the Chicago-based architectural firm of
Cochrane and Garnsey were approved by the General Assembly. Although J. C. Cochrane took
the credit, most of the work had actually been drafted by his associates George Garnsey and Alfred Piquenard.
Ground was broken for the present Capitol on March 11, 1868; the first stone was
set in place a few months later. A railroad spur was run from the Toledo,
Wabash, and Western Railway near 10th St, down Market (Capital) Street and circling the
Capitol grounds. This made it easier to deliver heavy construction
materials to the site. Wooden derricks were used to lift heavy limestone
blocks to all areas of the building.
From the March 12, 1868 edition of the Illinois State Journal:
WORK COMMENCED AT THE STATEHOUSE GROUNDS. -
Yesterday afternoon about three o'clock, quite a concourse of people
assembled at the State House site, to witness operation of breaking ground
preparatory to excavating trenches for the foundation of the new State House.
At the hour mentioned above, J. Bunn, Esq., chairman of the Board of State House
Commissioners, took hold of the plow, and turned a furrow on the line of the
foundation for about half the distance. Hon. J. W. Smith then took the
plow and completed the circuit. The two commissioners then took a spade
and removed a small quantity of earth, and the work was turned over to the
contractors. No speeches were made on the occasion and the whole operation
was performed in a sensible and business-like manner. Should the weather
permit, a large force will commence the work of excavating today.
Images of the
Building Under Construction
Lower images courtesy of the Office of the Architect of the
The formal laying of the
cornerstone occurred on October 5th, 1868. Two years later the
cornerstone developed large cracks and had to be replaced. Click
here to read more about the cornerstones and
their interesting history.
Although still unfinished after eight years of
work, the General Assembly moved into the building in 1876. The project was
continually plagued with trouble. Corruption was suspected several times and at
least one workman was killed on the job. Construction continued intermittently
for twenty years. During this time there was a serious movement afoot calling
for the abandonment of the unfinished structure and the Capital's removal to
some other Illinois city.
Civil War veteran Richard J. Oglesby was Governor when the building was started
and was serving a third term when the Capitol was finally completed two decades
later in 1888. Initially, construction costs were limited by appropriation to
$3,000,000, but expenditures had risen to over $4,500,000 at the time of
The Capitol, situated on a nine acre plot, was designed in the form of a
modified Latin cross. The facade is classical, an extremely popular style for
government and public buildings in the nineteenth century. The French-style
Mansard roofs on the north and south wings are indicative of the influence of Piquenard, a native of France.
The immense dome is supported by a circular foundation, 92-1/2 feet in diameter,
set on solid rock 25-1/2 feet below the grade line. The walls supporting the
dome, made from limestone quarried at Hancock County, are seventeen feet thick
from the foundation to the first floor. Limestone from Joliet and Lemont
quarries was used in the construction of the Capitol's exterior walls.
The extreme length of the building from north to south is 379 feet, and 268 feet
from east to west. The height from the ground line to the top of the dome is 361
feet, and 405 feet to the tip of the flagstaff. The red lights on the dome,
electronically geared to turn on when visibility reaches a certain low, were
installed as a guidance for pilots.
Statehouse was constructed in the late 19th century there were
three openings or shafts left in the rotunda, presumably for future
elevators. The first elevator, a passenger model, was approved by joint
resolution of the legislature. It lasted five years and was then replaced.
This elevator was located in the southwest corner of the rotunda and was
known as the Starkey R. Powell. (The State Journal-Register, October
31, 1974) It was torn out and subsequently replaced with a freight
elevator. A contract was also let to Ellithorpe Air Brake Co. of Chicago in
1885. According to the SJ-R article, the contract called for two elevators at a
cost of $8,500 and they included mirrors and seats. These elevators also
included air brakes and air cushions. The Ellithorpe elevators were
documented in The State Journal on January 8, 1887.
were mentioned in the December 2, 1902 Springfield News: “Those
elevators,” remarked Secretary of State James A. Rose, as he viewed one of
them crawling leisurely from the floor to the ceiling, “are wholly
inadequate. They are operated by water. Think of it, elevators in a
building like this operated by water. The elevators themselves are large
enough, but an electric system of lifting should be installed. The ordinary
day’s business is hard to handle with these slow-going affairs. When the
crowds come, the elevators handle just about a third as many as they
newspaper accounts there was no documentation of elevators again until 1939
when the State appropriated $30,000 for repairing four passenger elevators.
No one knows when the other two elevators were added to the building.
Today there are three elevators located in the rotunda, two located in the
North wing or Senate end of the building (which go from the basement to the
floor, two located in the south wing or House end of the building (which go
from the basement to the sixth floor, one in the House wing (which travels
from the third floor to the six floor), and two smaller elevators (one in
each of the House and Senate wings) that travel from the first floor to the
first floor mezzanine.