Category Archives: Legislature & State Capitol Buildings

Salt Lake City, Utah

As the real estate market quietened down for Christmas, we decided to take advantage and planned an impromptu trrip to the US.  “Planned” may be too strong a word.  We only had a day to pack, figure out the route and book accommodations before departing on our nearly 5,000 mile round trip!

Our plan was to try and get ahead of the weather, but it unfortunatley stuck with us for most of the journey south! 

Our first day (17th December) took us across the border and down to Helena, Montana, which took us about 7 hours.  We stayed there overnight, before continuing down to Salt Lake City the next day (18th December), which took about another 7 hours. 

It was quite snowy for both journeys, but surprisingly, we made pretty good progress.  In good weather, we thought it might be quite a scenic drive, but we didn’t manage to see much through the blowing snow!

To have a bit of a break from driving, we decided to spend the next day (19th December) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

As it was still very cold and snowy here, we had to find some indoor activities.  What better way to start than with some shopping, and with those American prices, we were like kids in a candy store!

In the afternoon, we thought we would keep warm in the State Capitol Building.  The building was apparently used in the film Legally Blonde 2!

If you follow our blog, you know we like to visit State Capitols (and Canadian Provincial equivalents).  They are usually pretty grand buildings to walk around, and this one did not disappoint. 
These four statues represent: Arts & Education
 Immigration & Settlement
 Land & Community
Science & Technology 
We also learned a little about Brigham Young, a major character in Utah’s history. 

 The finger on the statues hand is shiny where it has been touched by so many.

Utah is the “Beehive State” and there are beehives on everything!  On the coats of arms, on the flag, even on the police cars!
This case was packed full of “beehive” memorabilia. 
Even the doors had beehives on them!  The beehive theme relates to the early Utah pioneers who had little to work with and had to use great industry to produce their own supplies.
This was a view out of the window, which we are sure, on a clear day, would look stunning.
We took a brief stroll outside.  Unfortunately, because of the weather, we didn’t brave the grounds, but they appear to be very beautiful, well kept and tranquil – perhaps next time!
As we were leaving and the light was dimming, the building was looking lovely, all lit up.  It wasn’t quite dark enough for full impact, but it looked quite nice all the same.
 As we were driving through the City back to our hotel, we saw some more lovely buildings and decided it would be a very nice city to come back to and take a stroll around, in much better weather!

We also got a glimpse Eagle Gate.  Eagle Gate was built in 1859 as the entrance to Brigham Young’s farm. Originally 22ft/6.70m wide, it was several times enlarged to allow for increasing traffic and is now 75ft/23m wide. The gate is crowned by a massive eagle with a wing-span of over 20ft/6m.

On 20th December, we continued our journey south.  Next stop, St George, Utah.  This was a considerably shorter journey, at just 5 hours, although we still had snow, sleet and rain to contend with!  We were hoping to see the sun in St George but instead got incessant, heavy rain, (almost unheard of there, apparently).  Throughout our journey to date, we had got caught up in the massive winter storm which caused a state of emergency in California, with us feeling its effects as it made its way inland and across our route! 

Alberta’s Legislature Building

On the way back from Jasper, we stopped off in Edmonton and decided to have a good look around.  On previous visits, we had only ever got as far as the shopping mall and hadn’t really given our capital city a chance. 

This time we had a look around the old shopping district and some other areas of the city, which were all very nice.

We also took the time to look around Alberta’s Legislature Building.  It was a wet day, but great to see.  We could imagine it would be stunning in the Summer with the grounds full of flowers and fountains.

Construction began in 1907 and it was officially opened in 1919.  The building is made of granite and sandstone.

Before going inside, we had a walk around the grounds.  There are lots of different statues, symbolising and celebrating people and events in history.
The first one we came across was this broken cup, which is dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust.
The Pillar of Strength is a monument dedicated to Police and Peace officers of Alberta who have died in the line of duty.
The oldest one we could find on there was John Nash, who died in 1840.
On the last Sunday of Septeber each year, the fallen are remembered here.
Lord Strathcona, was a successful businessman and one of the directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He took part in the ceremony to drive in the last spike to complete Canada’s first transcontinental railway
in 1885.
Linda and Andrew standing by the Centennial Flame.  This eternal flame was erected to commemorate 100 years of the Canadian Confederation. 

Ukrainian Centennial Pioneer Monument – This was added to the grounds to commemorate 100 years of Ukrainian settlement in Alberta. 

Just before a downpour of rain, we made our way inside for the free guided tour.  The hallway was very impressive and made with 2,000 tons of marble.

We were first shown the statue of the 4th daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.  The Province was named after her, as was Lake Louise.  She was the wife of the Marquis of Lorne.
The Great Marble Staircase leads to the Assembly Chamber.
The Assembly Chamber.
There is a lovely stained glass roof in the chamber.  This was one of the first buildings in Alberta with electricity.  The architect went slightly overboard.  In this ceiling alone (if you expand the picture you can see) there are around 600 lightbulbs.  Unfortunately not a lot of thought went into how to change them in such a high ceiling and it is a several week job, every few years, to change them all out!
In the dome, there are a number of palm trees.  As palm trees are not native to Alberta, nobody really knows where these came from!
One of the most fascinating stories for us was that of the Mace, which is the symbol of the Legislative Assembly’s authority to make laws.
Parliament cannot sit without a Mace, and in 1906 the First Legislature had to get one in a hurry. No time for gold, silver, and jewels; so Alberta’s first Mace was fashioned in a few weeks’, from plumbing pipe, shaving mug, cup handles and scraps of wood, a bit of red velvet and then painted gold.  They ended up using it for the next 50 years!  Even to this day – it looked pretty good!

In 1956 a new Mace was made, which reflects Alberta’s history and culture:  The crown features a hand-carved Beaver, engravings of Wild Roses and sheaves of Wheat, and a ring of precious stones that spell “ALBERTA”: (Amethyst, Lazulite, Bloodstone, Emerald, Ruby, Topaz and Agate).
The Mace at the front is the new one, the one at the back is the old one.

They do not leave the fountain running the whole time, but they did switch it on for us to see and hear!  The fountain causes a very odd sound effect in a particular spot in the building – but we’ll leave that for you to discover should you ever choose to visit!

We also learned about Alberta’s Coat of Arms, topped by the George Cross atop a depiction of the natural resources and varied beauty of Alberta’s landscape: the Rocky Mountains, a big blue sky, the foothills, the grass prairies, and the cultivated wheat fields.

Would we go back to Edmonton on the back of this visit?  Absolutely, yes!

The State Capitol Building in Helena

Whilst we were in Helena, which is the state capital for Montana, we went to see the Capitol building.  We are always amazed that, in this day and age, you can just walk freely around State Capitol Buildings.  There is a security guard at a desk in reception but apart from welcoming us, all he did was give us a sheet to enable us to do a self guided tour, and off we went!

The building is faced with sandstone and on its east and west wings, granite.  It is topped with a copper dome. 

Large, impressive central staircase.
At the top of the stairs, there is a statue of Jeanette Rankin who was the first woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives and the first female member of the US Congress.  She is sometimes referred to as “the Lady of the House”.  She also joined the campaign for womens suffrage and was a lifelong pacifist and voted against the entry of the United States into both World War I and World War II.
Also at the top of the stairs is a statue of Wilbur Fisk Sanders, who helped found the Montana Historical Society as he was so keen to document Montana’s history.  In 1889 the Montana Legislature selected him to serve as one of its first US Senators.
Above the next staircase, there is a lovely stained glass window.
View of the stairway up to the next level.
Looking up into the dome
Corridors were lined with Christmas trees that had been decorated by local children.
Senate Chambers
House of Representatives Chambers
Behind the speaker’s chair, on the wall, is what is considered to be the masterpiece painting by Charles M Russell, who we mentioned in our first Montana post.  It is called “Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole”, which is on a 12 x 25 foot canvas.  It dates from 1912.
 Bell donated to celebrate Montanas 100th Birthday on 8th November 1989.
And of course, very impressive bathrooms!
A rather stunning tree outside, covered with ice.
It’s a beautiful building and it is fabulous that you have such freedom to enjoy it.  Long may it stay that way.
The next and final part of our account of our trip to Montana will follow in due course and it will cover our last day there and the journey home.