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North Dakota State Capitol
The North Dakota State Capitol is the seat of government of the U.S. state of North Dakotamarker. The Capitol, a 19 story tower, is located in Bismarckmarker at 600 East Boulevard Avenue, on a campus that is home to many other government buildings. The capitol building itself and the surrounding office buildings house the state's legislative and judicial branches, as well as many government agencies. It is the tallest building in the State of North Dakota.

The State Capitol grounds serve as a hub for the state's government departments and the numerous parks, walking trails, and monuments on the grounds give visitors an insight into the state's history, making it one of the city's tourist attractions. Six buildings currently exist on the grounds; all were built in various time periods as the government grew. Not all state agencies are housed on the grounds, however; a large percentage of them are spread out throughout the city in various facilities. Plans for a massive expansion and improvement of the grounds were developed in 2000, but very little of the plan has been implemented as of 2007.


The First State Capitol building
The original North Dakota State Capitol building, built between 1883 and 1884, saw several additions through the early 1900s until it burned to the ground on the night of December 28, 1930. The fire was said to be started by oily rags in a janitor's closet on the top floor of the building. The rags had been used to clean and varnish the legislator's desks in anticipation of the next legislative session. Secretary of State Robert Byrne was able to save the original copy of the state's constitution, but he suffered cuts and burns on his hands while breaking a window to reach the document. Another state employee, Jennie Ulsrud, burned her hands when she attempted to save records in the North Dakota State Treasurer's office. Governor George F. Shafer came back from his trip to St. Paul, Minnesotamarker while the fire was still burning. Upon arrival, he immediately assembled a team of state legislators and officials to discuss steps for coping with the loss of records and work space. The day after the fire, in an effort to save as many records as possible, 40 state prison inmates went to work trying to salvage materials from the ruins.The Legislature ended up meeting in Bismarck's War Memorial Building and the City Auditorium.

This disaster required the construction of a new building in the middle of the Great Depression. The tower and wing were built between 1931 and 1934, at a cost of US$2 million. Ground was broken for the building by Governor George F. Shafer on August 13, 1932. Workers on the building were paid only 30 cents an hour and, after multiple worker strikes, the capitol grounds went under Martial Law in June 1933. The state sold half of the original capitol campus to defray the cost of construction.

While the new 19-story Capitol building was expected to have plenty of space for years to come, the space quickly filled up as the Government of the state expanded. The Liberty Memorial Building, which was completed in 1924, was able to contain some of the additional workers, but more space was needed by 1955 when ground was broken for the State Office Building. The building originally housed the Bismarck Junior College, but the Legislature purchased it in 1959. This preceded a period of rapid expansion of the grounds in the 1960s. In 1960, the new North Dakota Governor's Residencemarker was built in on the grounds to replace the old residence which was beginning to malfunction. In 1963, the North Dakota Heritage Center was built to accommodate the expanding North Dakota State Historical Society, and in 1968, the North Dakota Department of Transportation building was constructed to accommodate an expanding Transportation Department. It is the last new building built as of 2007, although a Judicial Wing was added on to the base of the Capitol tower in 1977. While the space needed by state government has grown since the original construction of the Capitol in the 1930s, the state's population has actually decreased during that time.


The North Dakota State Capitol grounds are home to six buildings: the main Capitol building, the North Dakota Department of Transportation building, the North Dakota Heritage Center, the Liberty Memorial Building, the North Dakota Governor's Residencemarker, and the North Dakota State Office Building. In addition, two parks, Myron Atkinson Park and the Capitol Parkmarker, are also located on the campus. Running down the center of the grounds is the Capitol Mall, a large open field of grass with walking paths and American Elm trees lining both sides. The Mall was the site of the state's snow angel world record breaking in 2007, with 8,962 people sprawled out on the snow covered mall; a picture was taken from the top of the Capitol tower.


State Capitol

The main State Capitol building is a tall, 19-story, Art Deco skyscraper. It is the tallest building in North Dakota and is known as the Skyscraper on the Prairie. This tower houses the office of the Governor of North Dakota and the offices of multiple state agencies and departments. At the tower's base, in the west wing, the two chambers of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly meet when in session while the North Dakota Supreme Court meets in the east wing. The 18th floor of the Capitol is not used for offices as the other floors are, but rather as an observation deck; it is the highest vantage point in the state. In June 2006, the deck was temporarily closed because fire sprinkler installations throughout the tower created a need for temporary office space. It is expected to re-open in August 2007.

The south side of the Capitol building features a drive-thru tunnel which leads to an entrance to the building. This was accessible by public vehicles until 2001 when it was closed due to security measures taken after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Today, only pedestrians are able to enter the tunnel. In 1988, U.S. President George H. W. Bush presented and dedicated an American Elm tree near the Capitol steps in commemoration the state's Centennial in 1989.

The many windows on tower of the capitol building have been and are still used for several ongoing traditions. During the Christmas season, red and green shades are drawn over the windows and lights are turned on in certain offices to make a pattern that resembles a Christmas tree. During the New Year's Eve, certain office lights are turned on to spell out the new year; the first two numbers of the new year are given on the top half, and the last two numbers on the bottom. This tradition began in the 1970s, and is now done on all four sides of the building, the Christmas tree tradition began as early as the 1940s.

Tours of the capitol building are available on weekdays and include stops throughout both the legislative and judicial wings of the building, as well as a ride to the top of the tower.

Judicial Wing

The judicial Wing of the State Capitol building serves as a hub for the North Dakota Supreme Court and its support staff, as well as office space for state agencies like the Health Department and the Department of Human Resources. The design for the building began in May 1977, construction began in April 1979 and it was completely finished and occupied by 1981. The size of the Judicial Wing is and was built at a cost of $10,500,000. The dedication for the addition was held on November 15, 1981 with both Governor Allen Olson and former Governor Arthur A. Link present at the ceremony. Included in the wing is the Capitol lunchroom, which serves food to state employees and even the general public on weekdays.

Liberty Memorial Building

Liberty Memorial Building

The Liberty Memorial Building is home to the North Dakota State Library, as well as offices for the Tourism division of the North Dakota Department of Commerce. The building's construction was authorized by the state's legislature in 1919 in response to an increase of governmental departments and the project was finished by 1924 with a cost of $350,000. The building originally housed the State Historical Society Museum, the Adjutant General, the Library Commission, and the Supreme Court until the State Library occupied it. The building is the oldest facility still standing on the Capitol grounds and it was totally renovated in 1982 to keep up with modern building code.

Department of Transportation building

The Department of Transportation building
The North Dakota Department of Transportation building is home to the central office of the state's transportation department, as well as small divisions of other agencies. The building was completed in 1968 and was built with materials that harmonize visually with the pre-existing structures on the grounds. Before the building was completed, the Department of Transportation, then known as the State Highway Department, was located in various buildings around the campus including the State Office Building and the Capitol building itself. The building contains of gross building area and is located just to the east of the Capitol tower. While above ground the building is separated from the tower, it is still connected to the Judicial Wing of the tower by an underground tunnel only accessible to state employees.

North Dakota Heritage Center

The North Dakota Heritage Center building is home to the Heritage Center museum which stores and displays artifacts from around the state. The building also is home to office space for the North Dakota State Historical Society which operates the museum. Planning for the building began as early as 1963 and upon completion of the structure in 1981, the State Historical Society moved from the Liberty Memorial Building into its new Heritage Center quarters. The facility consists of and provides both exhibit areas as well as storage, meeting room, and office area for the Society.

In 2006, a massive expansion plan for the center was revealed. The construction will cost approximately $50 million and will nearly double the size of the complex. The design will add three large galleries to the east of the existing structure, as well as a new main entry that will face State Street. The present building consists of and the expansion will add of additional space. Funding for the project is estimated to consist of 20 percent private, 20 percent federal, and 60 percent state. In addition to the new gallery area, the expansion will include a 50-seat digital auditorium, climate-controlled storage areas, a cafe, a children's gallery, expanded visitors service and store, and the "Corridor of History," a -wide walkway spanning the length of the expansion with a glassed southern exposure on one side and digital murals on the other.

State Office Building

The State Office Building, located on the southeast corner of the complex, contains the Water Commission, in addition to several divisions from the office of the North Dakota Attorney General: the Civil Litigation Division and the Natural Resources and Indian Affairs attorneys. Built in 1955, the building was originally meant to house the Bismarck Junior College and it did so until 1961. After that date, the building was used for various departments and divisions of state government. During the 1991-1993 biennium, the building underwent massive renovation and was re-faced with an exterior that blended more harmoniously with other buildings on the complex. At , the building is the smallest among those used for offices on the campus.

North Dakota Governor's Residence

The North Dakota Governor's Residence

The North Dakota Governor's Residence is home to the Governor of North Dakota and is located off of 4th street on the west side of the campus. Built in 1960 to replace an outdated residence located further south on the same street, the current residence allows a more modern lifestyle for the state's First Family, as well as a convenient location at the center of the government of the state. After extensive remodeling in 2000, an effort headed by then first lady Nancy Schafer, the residence now has over of floor space and consists of a total eighteen rooms.

Outdoor facilities


There are two parks, the Myron Atkinson Park and the Capitol Parkmarker, located on the current capitol grounds. The Myron Atkinson Park, which is named after the Bismarck attorney Myron H. Atkinson, is located on the east side of State Street. Pedestrians are able to access the park by a tunnel that runs under the road. The Capitol Park is on the northwest corner of the grounds at the intersection of 4th Street and Divide Avenue and includes a playground with trees and shrubs planted by the Farwest Rotary Club.

Arboretum Trail

The Arboretum Trail is a walking trail that winds through a wooded area on the west side of the grounds. The trail takes walkers past 60 million year old petrified tree stumps from the Amidon, North Dakotamarker area, as well as 75 different species of trees and shrubs which are all labeled with ground plaques. Various statues and memorials are also located on the trail. The trail was created in 1985 in anticipation of the state's centennial and also as a way for state employees and the general public to get exercise while learning about various trees and the history of the buildings on the grounds. Many area schools take their students to the trail for nature walks and students in the past have used the various trees for leaf collections. This damaged some of the trees, so signs that forbid leaf picking were posted.

Prairie Trail

The Prairie Trail runs north of the Capitol's Judicial Wing, taking pedestrians into an area filled with examples of grasses and wild flowers which are typical of native prairie. In 2006, the trail was expanded to take walkers from the corner of State Street and Divide Avenue south into the main grounds area. The original trail was dedicated with a plaque in 1987 and the wild grassland surrounding the trail was registered as a state Natural Area by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department.

Statues and monuments

Sakakawea statue on North Dakota State Capital grounds

Pioneer Family

The Pioneer Family statue is one of the most prominent on the grounds, as it is on the southern end of the mall in the foreground of the capitol tower. The statue was sculpted in 1946 by Avard Fairbanks and it is dedicated to honor the memory of the great northwest.

All Veterans Memorial

The All Veterans Memorial is a large monument located south of the Heritage Center, along a walking path. The memorial is to all North Dakotans who served in the armed foces during the first 100 years of statehood, as it was finished and dedicated on June 10, 1989. The names of 4,050 men and women who died during the nation's wars are inscribed on the bronze tablets displayed under a large block of stone supported by columns. The monument is lit during the night hours. Stone benches are available for seating.

Other statues

Other statues on the capitol grounds include Sakakawea, John Burke, Cortés, Buffalo, Pioneers of the Future, Purple Heart Memorial, Peace Officers Memorial, French Gratitude, and USS North Dakota bowplate.

See also


External links

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