Arkansas State Capitol

Capitol buildings are an icon of American history and politics; and no matter what state you happen to be visiting, you haven’t really seen it properly until you’ve paid a visit to its state capitol.

The Arkansas State Capitol is located, appropriately enough, on Capitol Hill, at the eastern end of the Capitol Mall. Designed by architect George R Mann, Arkansas’ own resident Capitol building was constructed on the site of an old penitentiary, with construction beginning in 1899. The building process was a troubled one: with such glamorous features as 24-karat gold plating on the cupola, the building went drastically over its original budget; and thanks to a miscalculation by the original builder, the building ended up somewhat out of alignment with Little Rock’s grid layout.

Nonetheless, the building was, ultimately, successfully completed in 1915. Since then, it has served a key role in both state-wide and nationwide politics – most notably, it was from here that Bill Clinton would serve as governor and launch an ultimately successful bid for the presidency.

With its towering 230 feet of height and distinctive neo-Classical style that has come to define the political buildings of the USA, the Capitol building is a breath-taking sight to behold. In something of a symbolic nod to the power of the United States’ state political bodies to unite such a vast nation, the Capitol’s interior utilises materials sourced from across the country, including Vermont marble, columns from Colorado, a staircase from Alabama, and chandeliers from New York.

But the grounds around the building are also home to a great many tributes to the tumultuous and fascinating history of the state. To the north of the building, the “Testaments” sculpture stands in tribute to the Little Rock Nine, nine African-American students who breached the colour barrier by being the first non-white students to attend Little Rock Central High School in 1957; and further to the southeast, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial stands in proud tribute to the 60,000 brave men of Arkansas who served in the Vietnam War.

No US state is quite complete with its Capitol building, which represents its connection to the political network that makes the United States of America the vast and vibrant nation that it is. In turn, no visit to any particular state is complete without popping in to see its respective Capitol building – after all, no matter what the history of that particular state may be, that building has almost certainly been at the epicentre of it.