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tv   American Artifacts Virginia Capitol Building  CSPAN  January 6, 2018 5:40am-6:06am EST

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york as he belongs to the world. he's everybody's writer and that's the great thing about this museum. it's a place that brings together everybody. we are inside a working public building that has hosted the oldest elective law making legislature active in the western hemisphere today. i think in terms of architecture since we have the first american state capitol to open after the revolutionary war and the first monumental roman temple style
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public building in the modern era, its influence on other state capitols, county court houses and public buildings that are very famous up in washington d.c. cannot be underestimated. in fact i've heard architectural historian describe the iconic government buildings as the sequel to the virginia state capitol in richmond. we started off with our first political center at james town, which is the oldest english speaking settlement in north america and that was used throughout the 1600 hads and there were multiple buildings used for government meetings and when we moved to williamsbering we built a capitol which burned down in the middle of the 1700s and we rebuilt a second one and it was the second one we left behind when we moved here during the revolutionary war and interestingly mr. jefferson had
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introduced the bill to relocate to richmond, by the time we made the move, he was serving as governor and got to over see the process. if you think of the capitol as an essay in architecture, the primary author was thomas jefferson and at the time we were getting ready to break ground in richmond in 1785, jefferson left state service and was american ambassador to france. he was living in paris. and nonetheless richmond authorities reached out to jefferson in 1785 asking for his help as an absentee advocate for a properly designed capitol building and he turned to the architecture of an tick wuty. he was fascinated by the temples of greece and rome and he was able to collaborate with a professional french architect who was a published authority on
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roman an tickwitties and i like to the think of jefferson as the author of our original capitol building and it's known the french as -- when jefferson was planning the virginia state capitol to look like a classical, monumental roman temple, he followed the advice of people who study antiquity and it became by design the center piece of our city. likely the first thing you would see that would make an impression on you would be this civic temple on a hill. and it faces south with a great view back in the old days of the james river. and the front of the building has eight ionic columns. they're over 40 feet tall.
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it has a triangular petment and in the words of one architectural historian, the south port co of our virginia state capitol is like a fronts piece of all virginia. the records we have are incomplete but we know there was a combination of free labor and slave labor involved in making the capitol. skilld and unskilled workers. local artisans and traveling artisans, some of whom after working on the virginia capitol went north to washington d.c. and began working on the subsequent united states capitol. when you have a really good building that's accumulating important history and has important people and events associated with it, you don't give up on the building. for over 100 years we used it capitol as first built and it was a rectangular roman style
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building but by 1904 we realized the building was getting a little old in the tooth and needed renovation, plus it was too small for 20th century purposes and rather than give up on the building, what we did was gave it a new roof, monumental front steps leading up to the south portico and added two balanced style wings. the east wing and the west wing. we're presently located in the 1906 era entrance hall and before the 21st century, the general public could come up the exterior front steps, enter through some double doors in front of me and walk down this entrance hall and be greeted by none other than george washington himself standing life size, meticulous marble master piece that was placed here in
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1796. it's it only full length statue of washington that he personally posed for. and it was shortly after it revolution, he was 53 years old. he had voluntarily resigned his military powers to go them to private life on his farm. and the statue that visitors see today is the most accurate depiction of george washington available. inside that room where you see george washington are marble busts of the other virginia-born presidents. we have a total of eight. we also have a surprise guest. s there rr an additional statue of the marquee delafayette who was a major general in the american revolution fighting on our side against the british, a french volunteer. outside our building we have a pediment style, temple style a-line roof but once you're inside the building and you enter the hall ofprises, you suddenly discover a dome, which
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is what you had been expecting all along and our dome has a oculous or sky lite and directly above that dome sky lite above it is an additional sky lite on the outside roof. we are now inside the old hall of the house of delegates, usually referred to as the old house chamber. this room is fill would memories, rich and rare and it's also filled with statuary that honor americans and virginiaens who were prominent legislatures, jurist, executive leaders, military commanders, scientists, if h inventors and so on. this is where the pulse first came to life in 1788 with had the house of delegates convened here and for about 116 years this was the historic setting for great debates and defining decisions that would shape it destiny of virginia and
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influence the history of the united states. the virginia state capitol and the constitution of the united states were born in the same year. 1788. and the constitution is just a fewcapitol. the revolution put virginia on the map for a new commonwealth. then in 1861, the civil war put it on the map as a new national capitol for the confederate states of america and virginians took a long time to decide whether or not to seseed from the union and subsequently join the confederacy. but we're actually standing in the room where virginians voted to suseed from the union. once that decision was made, the confederate congress was brought to richmond from alabama and for the next four years between july
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of 1861 through march of 1865 the virginia state capitol was multitasking. it hosted not only the ongoing me meetings of the virginia general assembly and state governors but hosted simultaneous meetings of the confederate congress. the civil war came to a dramatic end right here in richmond in spring of 1865 the confederate government decided on the second of april to evacuate the city and the virginia state government made the same decision and they both pulled up stakes and left richmond in a hurry and in the confusion of the evacuations of the government and virginia state government, orders were given to set selected fires at government warehouses to destroy military and naval property and to l
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literally burn their bridges behind them. unfortunately for richmond the selected fires set by confederate soldiers retreating quickly got out of control and within hours you industrial wat front of richmond going up inflames. the descriptions of 1865 are harrowing. fortunately for history the historic capitol building and historic governor's mansion right behind it were situated in this open capitol square public park which served as a fire break and protected the buildings from the raging fires that came right up to the house border of the capitol square. when union troops came into the city on the morning of april 3rd, 1865, they were able to come marching and galloping into the grounds of capitol square and immediately replaced the
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republic flags with united states flags and conveniently the virginia state capitol became a perfect office building for military occupation. federal troops wasted no time organizing the brigades to put out the flames and do further damage. there's a powerful historic irony that confronts people when they sit or stand in this historic room. on the 17th of april, 1861, this is the room the virginia leaders chose to secede from the union in 1868, a new group of virginia leaders meeting in the same room put their finishing touches on a new virginia state constitution written during reconstruction. the purpose of that new constitution was to get virginia readmitted into the union.
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what made this constitutional convention interesting was for the very first time you had a bi-racial convention. the suffrage had been extended to black men in virginia as a consequence of the civil war and there had been an election october, 1867, among the white and black male voters of virginia to decide should we hold a constitutional convention and create a new constitution to get virginia back into the union? largely on the power of the newly enfranchised black vote that question carried in the affirmative and it was possible then for white and black men to choose delegates to come to this room and craft a new constitution. there were 104 people. 104 people who sat here in this very chamber, 24 of whom were african-americans. once they finished their handy work on a new constitution, 10 of those african-american delegates went on to be elected
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for service either in the house or senate of the virginia legislature. it was all over the newspapers, and you had fall range of opinion on what was happening, but the results are important and in disputable. when the constitution was submitted to congress, it was approved. in january of 1870, virginia was readmitted to the federal union over the signature of then president ulysses s. grant. when people come inside the hall of the house, they're immediately struck by the presence of an unusual object. it is staged front and center. virginia has an honest-to-goodness authentic mace. the one you can see on display in this case is made of english sterling silver and more recently applied 24 karat finish. it was made in birmingham in the
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1930s and presented to the house of delegates in 1974. in keeping with the traditions, we actively deploy ours during each day of session on the floor of the house of delegates. the sergeant at arms to the house will come into this old museum chambers, put on white gloves, take it out of the display case and carry it out to the hall of presidents, make a left turn at the washington statute and head down to the east wing where the house of delegates convenes. when the speaker gives the nod, the sergeant-at-arms holds up the mace in front of the members and says the virginia house of delegates is now in session. right now, we're standing on the floor inside the virginia house of delegates chamber. we're located in the east wing of the virginia state capitol. ever since 1906 this room has
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been the meeting place for 100 lawmakers chosen by the people of virginia. the lawmakers in the house of delegates have a two year term and they are eligible for re-election. this is also the room where we have joint sessions of the virginia state assembly and know we will have at least one every year in january when the governor presides and delivers his state of the commonwealth address. >> to the people of virginia with us tonight or watching from home, thank you for the honor of serving as this commonwealth's 72nd governor. >> that's an interesting praise. we have a state of the commonwealth in virginia because we refer to ourselves officially in the constitution as the commonwealth. i get asked about that all the time. the commonwealth is a form of
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government which relies on the consent of the people and rule of law and law making for the greater good of the population at large. so every year in january we'll have a joint session. 40 senators are given temporary seating alongside the backside of the chairman and they are sitting alongside their desks and chairs and listen to the presentation of the governor of virginia. this is also the go-to room for other session of the legislature when we receive important guests from other parts of the world. during 1946 we held a joint session to receive sir winston spencer churchill who came to us in his capacity as a private citizen and made a well received address, just two days after his very famous speech in missouri about an iron curtain descending upon europe after world war ii. >> we can stand together.
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>> we can stand together in merit for none or greed for nothing but courses we hold dear not only for our own benefit but because we believe they mean the honor and happiness of long generations of men. >> in more recent years we have received in joint session margaret thatcher. >> mr. speaker, mr. president, governor allen, members of the general assembly, thank you for that splendid reception. it is one-on-one rarely receives in one's own country. >> she was the first female prime minister of the united kingdom. just a few years ago to mark the 400th anniversary of english
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settlement in north america, her majesty the queen of great britain was here and gave a very well received speech to a packed chamber. when you look up you see the original 1906 oval skylight. you also see the use of dutch metal paint that gives you all the gold gilding effects at a more affordable price and you see the use of these different panels painted to resemble demask silk panels, maybe flocked velvet but they're actually flat wall surfaces carefully painted. you also see in the house a navy blue and gold color scheme reflected throughout this chamber. the senate of virginia in the opposite wing has very similar decorations but they distinguished themselves with the burgundy and gold color scheme opposed to blue and gold
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color scheme here. we have moved through the rotunda of the capitol and into the west wing of our building. this is a chamber used by the senate of virginia. we have 40 members of the virginia state senate who convene in this chamber starting every january. our legislature is a part-time legislature. in odd numbered years we have a short session. they don't have to pass a state budget, in even numbered years we have a longer session where we pass a state budget. we're on the floor of the actual senate chamber. we are surrounded by edwardian opulence. the walls and ceiling of the senate chamber are not guilty of understatement. the style and day core and color scheme we see here has been carefully restored to resemble its appearance more than 100 years ago. when people come into the senate
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chamber on guided tours and they look up, they will see a dramatic oval skylight part of the 1906 design. they will see small hand-painted monograms, va, standing for virginia, up in each corner of the oval. when they look around, they see the circa 1908, 1910 wall design and plasters wrapped around the chamber. if they were coming during the session they wouldn't be on the floor but in a dramatic spectators gallery. there's a sweeping semicircular gallery for the public along the back of the chamber that gives everybody who comes a bird's-eye view on the activities of the senate. jefferson wants people to come to the capitol building. he himself said wherever the people are well informed they
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can be trusted with their own government. this chamber began functioning for the government in 1906 and continues functioning today. there's an original 1906 wooden dias center stage with an elevated platform for clerking staff and lieutenant-governor, who presides over our senate. our members of the senate have a four year term and they're eligible for re-election and each represent 200,000 constituents per senator. one of the interesting features of our general assembly which dates back to 1916, it has always been considered a part-time legislature. this chamber, in terms of its visual presentation takes you back about 100 years to the beginning of the 20th century but in terms of its ongoing function it is a valid place every single year when the
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lawmakers come to do the public business. i am remembering that we had in this chamber a lieutenant-governor by the name of lawrence douglas wilder who as lieutenant-governor presided over this senate and then ran for successfully the governorship of the commonwealth of virginia. in 1990, outside on the grounds of the capitol square, he was sworn in as the first elected african-american governor of a state in our nation. >> i, lawrence douglas wilder. >> do solemnly swear. >> do solemnly swear. >> that i will support the constitution of the united states. >> and the constitution of the commonwealth of virginia. >> and the constitution of the commonwealth of virginia. >> and that i will faithfully. >> that i will faithfully. >> and impartially. >> and impartially. >> discharge all of the duties incumbent upon me. >> discharge all the duties
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incumbent upon me. >> as governor of virginia. >> as governor of virginia. >> according to the best of my ability. >> according to the best of my ability. >> so help you god. >> so help me god. >> congratulations. >> when l. douglas wilder took his oath of office and made an inaugural speech it was known to everybody that he had been a descendant of slaves who had lived in virginia in the 19th century. here you had this really interesting revolution within his own family from people living in slavery to people assuming the chair of the governor of the commonwealth of virginia. the virginia state capitol is a symbol of not only virginia, but of virginia people that served in public service and virginia principals that have gone on to inform american principles of self-government. you walk into this building every january and you feel the
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public puzzle pulse beating inss historic landmark and brand new underground extension that welcomes visitors to the capitol. the capitol itself is on one level a pretty good fine arts museum, with a sizable collection of paintings and of sculpture. it is also really convincing civic classroom. we get about 118,000 visitors each year coming to see the capitol building. they're coming to see it for all kinds of reasons. some of them want to visit a recognized historical attraction. some are coming here for civics education. some of them are coming here to participate in the process of self government. and all of them, i hope, will gain an appreciation for a time-tested workplace for
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enduring american principles. many of those principles having been engineered in virginia, going all the way back to the beginnings of our general assembly in 1619 at jamestown. we have been exercising the rights and responsibilities of self-government in virginia for nearly 400 years. that's something worth watching. elected in 1989, doug wilder became the first african-american to be elected governor of virginia. he sat down with us to discuss his book, "son of virginia" and share his thoughts on the current political climate. >> hold your hand on the family bible and repeat after me. i -- >> i, lawrence douglas wilder do


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