The first Nebraska Capitol building was built in 1867; the second in 1881. Both buildings had structural problems and after the second one literally crumbled away, the Nebraska Capitol Commission, in 1919, selected New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue to begin building the “tower on the plains” that would become Nebraska’s new (and third) Capitol building. Beginning in 1922, the construction took ten years and was completed in four phases at a cost of 9.8 million dollars. Think what that amount would be today! Hartley Burr Alexander, PhD, composed the theme for the decoration of the building, and sculptor Lee Lawrie and mosaicist Hildreth Meiere were hired to carry it out; Lawrie’s relief sculpture on the exterior representing “Government and Law in the Western World,” and Meiere doing the interior floors and ceilings in marble and ceramic tile.

The building is covered with Indiana limestone. It is 400 feet tall and 440 feet wide. Only the Louisiana capitol building is taller and was patterned after the Lincoln building. State law prohibits any building from being taller than the Capitol.

The Tower is crowned by a golden reflective dome which changes color with the weather. On it is mounted the bronze sculpture “The Sower,” facing northwest and weighing 9.5 tons. The tower’s drum is a frieze of thunderbirds and together with the dome and statue, represent weather and agriculture.

In the Vestibule, the floor mosaic represents Cosmic Energy with murals by James Penney depicting pioneer life. The Foyer art shows the Past, Present, and Future of life on the Plains, through three giant floor medallions, circular ceiling mosaics and six Venetian glass murals which were added during the state’s centennial in 1967.

In the 112-foot tall dome of the Rotunda, winged angels form a celestial rose. On the floor, Mother Earth provides Nebraskans with food and water while other pictures depict prehistoric life. On the 14th floor 200 feet above the Rotunda, is a memorial chamber where visitors may view the city.

There are also flags representing the various Sovereign Nations of the Native American Nebraska tribes. Nebraska is the only state which houses Sovereign Nations within its borders.

Three branches of Government reside within the Capitol, including the Governor’s Suite (designed in Italian Renaissance style); the Legislature, which has met since 1937 and is the nation’s only Unicameral, and the 7-member Supreme Court which contains an 8000-foot suspended walnut ceiling.

The Lincoln Capitol building is the heaviest capitol building in the nation. It is only one of four "skyscraper" Capitol buildings in the US, and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1976, becoming a National Landmark in 1999.


1. Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings, NE 2. Charles Lindbergh learned to fly at Lincoln Airplane and Flying School 3. The "McRib" was invented at the University of Nebraska 4. At the intersection of 13th and "O" Streets, a large brick star marks the exact spot where the American West begins 5. Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson went to school in Lincoln 6. Before they were the Cornhuskers, the University football teams was called the Antelope Boys, the Bugeaters, and the Rattlesnake Boys 7. Salt flats northwest of downtown Lincoln provided salt for Native Americans and settlers alike

PHOTOS (from right to left) 1.Capitol and tower; 2. Chandelier and ceiling mosaic; 3. stairway; 4. Floor medallion; 6. Vaulted archway leading to hall; 7. Murals; 8. Mezzanine ; 9. Hallway; 10. Inside Rotunda with Native American flag (note serrated door frame made of black marble); 11. Chandelier in Rotunda; 12. Viewing parapet surround exterior of Rotunda; 12. Statue of Lincoln on approach to Capitol building.


  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // December 28, 2009 at 1:27 PM  

    Toni, what an amazing building! Thanks for all the great pictures and the history lesson! I love to learn little bits of obscure history.

  2. Mary Ricksen // December 28, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

    Amazing! I like that stuff too!!

  3. Mary Marvella // December 29, 2009 at 12:29 AM  

    You manage to make facts interesting. Love the pictures and the tour. Good job!

  4. Anonymous // January 2, 2010 at 3:59 AM  

    Thanks for telling about something that most NEBRASKANS probably know next to nothing about!