America’s Dairyland and Its Capitol

Going Kris one better, in honor of Leif Ericson as well as my Olsen and Anderson forebears I spent the weekend at the epicenter of Scandinavian-America: the upper Midwest. The highlight was a visit to Madison, Wisconsin, where I spent my childhood summers, and the State Capitol building.

VA Capitol.JPGWisconsin’s Capitol, like the one in downtown DC and unlike the one in Richmond, sports a distinctive exterior dome — Madison’s is 3 feet and 1/2 inches shorter than the Nation’s and is the only granite state capitol dome in the U.S.. Wis Capitol Dome Night.JPGAt night, it is illuminated brilliantly and is visible for miles across Lakes Mendota and Monona, which border downtown Madison (the building’s website notes proudly that it is “the only State Capitol ever built on an isthmus.”)

Wis Capitol Rotunda.JPGAt the center of the four wings is a rotunda that rises several hundred feet. At the four corners are mosaics that pay tribute to GovernmentWis Capitol Govt Mosaic.JPG and the duties of its three branches (my favorite is “Legislation” — “represented as a powerful older man with a long beard who holds a stylus in his right hand and is seated by a sphinx symbol of wisdom”). Wis Capitol Legislation Mosaic.JPG

Several years ago the state undertook a massive renovation and restoration of the building, from its granite exterior to its oak woodwork and brass fittings. Wis Capitol Restoration.JPGFor those who grumble about the pace of work on our Capitol’s renovation and restoration, it should be noted that the Wisconsin project took over 12 years.

All in all, a perfect fall weekend — the kind of weather the Midwest offers up occasionally to delude people into thinking they might actually want to live there year-round.