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Simpson Street Free Press

Learn the History of Wisconsin's State Capitol Buildings

Did you know Wisconsin's first capitol was not built in Madison? The first capitol building, called the territorial capitol, was built by James Atchison in the town of Old Belmont. The capitol was built around 1836, using wooden pieces made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Today, the territorial capitol remains in Lafayette County as one of Wisconsin's historical sites.

The first state capitol was built under the supervision of James D. Doty and John O'Neill. Construction started in 1837, but it was not finished until 1848. It was expected to cost $40,000, but after it was completed, the expenses were $60,000.

Due to the growing state, the legislature of 1857 planed for the expansion of the capitol. Soon, the construction of a second state capitol began. The legislature established the second state capitol as they believed that the first state capitol was no longer adequate for the growing state.

The second capitol caught on fire on Feb 27, 1904, at 2:45 am as a gas jet set fire on the second floor by the assembly office. Firefighters and two Milwaukee companies fought for 18 hours. The estimated cost of the damages was $800,000, but luckily, no one was hurt.

In 1906, plans were explored for a third capitol. George B. Post and Sons (a New York firm) was rewarded with a contract for the design of the building. The new building was planned to use the form of a cross with four equal wings. Soon after, in 1909, construction started on the third capitol. It was completed in 1917, and still stands today.

The state capitol building has a long history and expanded with a growing population. Today, the capitol is a site visited by many, and tourists can explore its architecture and history.

[Sources: Wisconsin History; Wisconsin State Historical Society; Wisconsin State Journal]

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