DENVER CITY, Colorado – Exactly 159 years ago, the discovery of gold near Denver brought fortune seekers across the plains to what officials describe as the Rocky Mountains.
Settlements developed throughout the region, and the largest communities were established near the mining areas – the area that today is Colorado – population five million — was originally divided among the territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and New Mexico territories.
In 1861, the first Territorial Assembly met in Denver to debate the location of the capital city, 15 years before Colorado joined the Union as the 38th state of the United States.
During the early years, government officials occupied offices in cramped and uncomfortable rented quarters.
Excavation for the government building – today’s Capitol – did not begin until 1886, nearly 10 years after Colorado’ statehood was granted on Aug 1, 1876.
According to officials, the Capitol building was designed by Elijah Myers, and its construction – abut $3 million at the time — lasted nearly 15 years until 1901, although many offices were in use in 1894.
The Colorado Capitol, in the heart of Denver City, was designed on an axis in the form of a Greek cross measuring 383 feet long by 315 feet wide, and resembles the basic design of the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.
On the concrete front steps of the Capitol, whose dome is gold plated, are etched the words “One Mile Above Sea Level” – in quick reference to the fact that the Capitol in Denver stands 1.6 kilometers above sea level.
The Mile High City, or Denver, is less than two hours from a dozen world class ski resorts and in the middle of a cultural and culinary boom that has insiders talking.
From celebrated restaurants to world-renowned museums, from notable shopping to remarkable entertainment, Denver’s renaissance has travelers flocking to this iconic western city, excited by the buzz.
The Capitol, center of the state government, houses the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and the Department of the Treasury.
The Colorado Supreme Court, according to officials, was located in the Capitol until 1977.
Today, the Judicial Branch, including the Supreme Court, is now in the Ralph Carr Judicial Center not far away, with the vacated court chamber in the north wing of the Capitol’s second floor now used as a legislative hearing room.
Impressive was the nearly unanimous expression of guests who were given a tour recently of the Capitol with its grand staircase, its exterior walls, its stained glass windows, murals and its Gold Dome, among others.
Rising 272 feet above the ground, the Capitol’s gleaming gold dome is, according to officials, a “fitting tribute to the history of Colorado state.”
The dome was originally topped with copper, but the citizens of Colorado, the officials said, objected to the selection of copper since it was not a primary metal in Colorado.
In 1908, the building committee decided to instead cap the building with gold, with Colorado miners making a gift of 200 ounces of gold to gild the dome.
Officials said the gold coating the dome “is thinner than tissue paper and is delivered in rolls and the gold replaced in 2013 (and) although 149 rolls were needed to cover the 2,842 square feet of surface area, the job only required 64.5 ounces of gold.”
The exterior walls of the four-story Capitol are constructed of granite quarried near Gunnison, Colorado, with more than 200 stonecutters from Maine, Vermont, California and Texas employed to construct the five-foot thick walls.
The builders believed, according to officials, the durable stone would survive the seasons of a thousand years.
The pink stone seen throughout the Capitol is rose onyx discovered near Beulah, Colorado, such coloration, according to officials, never been found anywhere else in the world.
The floors of the Capitol are constructed of yule marble from Marble, Colorado, with builders deciding to use native marble even though it would have cost less to ship marble from Italy than it cost to transport it from the mountains of Colorado.
The grand staircase, which stands in the center of the first floor rotunda leading to the second floor, is adorned with oak leaves and acorns cast in brass, the marble staircase consisting of 57 steps and 176 brass balusters.
There are eight awe-inspiring murals on the first floor rotunda walls, which were completed in 1940.
Colorado’s water story is told in picture and in verse through the collaboration of artist Allen True and the poet Thomas Ferril.
Every panel stresses the importance of water throughout the state’s history, the pictures painted on canvas then attached to the rotunda walls.
The stained glass windows throughout the Capitol are on the second and third floors and at the base of the dome.
The Colorado Hall of Fame, which is in the dome, contains stained-glass portraits of 16 individuals who contributed to the initial growth and development of the state.
Elsewhere in the Capitol is the hand-stitched wall hanging which tells the story of prominent Colorado women in the first 100 years of statehood, with more than 3,500 people, officials said, putting at least one stitch in the striking tapestry.