Kentucky celebrated the centennial of the state Capitol's completion this weekend with a gala, family activities and the dedication of new murals above the rotunda.
The Capitol also is being celebrated in a new book with never-before-published photographs taken during construction of the massive limestone, marble and granite building on what was then farmland south of downtown Frankfort.
The book, Kentucky's State Capitol (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99), was put together by David L. Buchta, state curator and director of the Kentucky Division of Historic Properties. He is donating all sale proceeds to the division's endowment fund, which helps pay for conservation and acquisition of artifacts for Kentucky's most treasured state buildings.
Most of the book's content comes from the Kentucky Historical Society's photo archives, and from Frankfort architect Scot Walters' collection of antique postcards.
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The century-old Capitol replaced three previous ones, the first two of which burned, in 1813 and 1824. They also were on the site of what is now known as the Old Capitol — architect Gideon Shryock's Greek Revival masterpiece, built between 1827 and 1832.
Visitors today marvel at the "new" Capitol's Beaux Arts magnificence, designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews with a dome modeled after the one over Napoleon's tomb in Paris.
But the building is even more impressive when you look at the photographs of its construction, between 1906 and 1910. Most of the labor was by hand. Photos show men with shovels, horse-drawn wagons and manual cranes. The only thing resembling modern machinery is a steam-powered cement mixer.
The book's only text is a two-page overview of Kentucky's early history, and long captions on each photo that make for a quick but fascinating read. For example, Hoosier haters might be horrified to know that the Capitol's exterior is Indiana limestone. It was, after all, the low bid.
Other photos show groups of the Capitol's anonymous craftsmen, interiors of fancy rooms and candid photos of early bureaucrats and legislators who occupied the marble halls.
There also are some great photos of governors giving speeches and posing with 1930s beauty queens in bathing suits. After all, any good history of Kentucky's Capitol can't just deal with architecture; it must include a little politics and sex, too.