Lansing was not Michigan’s original capital city, Detroit was named the capital of the new territory on July 1, 1805. The Great Seal of the State of Michigan from which the coat of arms is taken was designed in 1835 by General Lewis Cass, former governor of Michigan Territory. Michigan was admitted to the Union in 1837, thus Detroit would remain the capital only until 1847. In late 1847, a wooden structure was thrown up to serve as the temporary capitol building. A settlement soon grew around it thus was called “Michigan, Michigan,” this confusing name was later changed to “Lansing” as we know today. Though it served as Michigan’s capital since 1847, Lansing wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1859.
Michigan was the first of several state capitols to be designed by Elijah E. Myers (others were Texas, Colorado, Idaho and Utah) during the 1870s and 1880s. Millions of bricks used for the walls and ceilings were made in Lansing, while building materials for the new capitol came from all over the country and abroad. The exterior stone came from Ohio, cast iron for the dome and floor beams were from Pennsylvania, marble and limestone for the floors were from Vermont and the tin for the roof was from Wales. Michigan’s current and third capitol was dedicated on January 1, 1879. The effects of crowding, remodeling and neglect began to diminish the building almost at once, thus in 1989 a highly successful restoration project began. It was completed in 1992 and rededicated on November 19, 1992.
One of the main features of the capitol is the rotunda which rises 160 feet to the top of the inner dome. The Oculus, or “eye” of the dome provides a glimpse into the vastness of the universe, represented by a Starry Sky. Just below the Oculus are 8 female figures painted on canvas and glued directly to the inner dome. They are muses, guides and sources of inspiration drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. The muses are Art, Agriculture, Law, Science, Justice, Industry, Commerce and Education, each muse offers the people of Michigan the means to achieve progress and future prosperity. They were painted by Italian artist Tommaso Juglaris in 1886 but was forgotten for over 100 years until rediscovered during the 1992 restoration project.
Inside the capitol are 20 chandeliers designed just for the building, once originally lit by gas they feature an elk and shield design inspired by the state’s coat of arms. The Michigan capitol is by far one of my favorite capitols and the rotunda will leave you in awe. Make sure you take a trip to Lansing to uncover the history behind the state people call home…MICHIGAN.