Oldest State Capitol Buildings Still in Use

10 Oldest State Capitol Buildings Still in Use

State capitol buildings are landmarks of every capital city across the United States. Many of the current state capitols have been in continuous use since they were first constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries. As such old buildings, all of the state capitols on this list have had extensive renovations over the years, but the overall style of the buildings has remained the same. Of all the state capitol buildings, these 10 are the oldest and all of them are still in use and open to the public for tours as well.

10. Tennessee State Capitol

Built: 1845 – 1859
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Architect: William Strickland

Tennessee State Capitolphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tennessee State Capitol was built on the site of the former Holy Rosary Cathedral (no longer extant), which was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in Nashville. The State Capitol was designed by renowned Philadelphia architect William Strickland and it was modeled after a Greek Ionic temple. Following Strickland’s sudden death in 1854, the Tennessee State Capitol’s construction was continued by his son Francis. Today, the Tennessee State Capitol serves as the home of the Tennessee General Assembly and the location of the governor’s office.

Did You Know?

The American Society of Civil Engineers has designated the Tennessee State Capitol as a civil engineering landmark in recognition of its innovative construction, which made unusually extensive use of stone and was an early example of the use of structural iron.

9. Ohio Statehouse

Built: 1839 – 1861
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Architect: Multiple

Ohio Statehousephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Ohio Statehouse‘s construction started in 1839, but did not finish until much later in 1861, due to various setbacks including a cholera epidemic, fires, and general setbacks. In 1838,  Ohio’s government held a competition to select the design for the new statehouse. Three winners were selected: first prize was awarded to Henry Walter of Cincinnati, the second to Martin Thompson of New York, and the third to painter Thomas Cole, also of New York. However, due to the numerous setbacks, the Ohio Statehouse was redesigned several times before it was completed.

Did You Know?

During an eight year lapse in construction (from 1840 to 1848) on the Ohio Statehouse, the completed basement and foundations were actually filled in with soil and Capitol Square was used as a pasture.

8. Vermont State House

Built: 1833 – 1838
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Montpelier, Vermont
Architect: Thomas Silloway

Vermont State Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The current Vermont State House was built on the same site as the first State House originally built in 1808. This (current) State House was designed by Thomas Silloway, who amplified the design of the second State House structure designed by Ammi B. Young. Young’s State House was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1857, but Silloway managed to salvage Doric portico, as well as portions of the granite walls. The general style of the building is Neoclassical and Greek Revival and is furnished in American Empire, Renaissance Revival, and Rococo Revival styles. Today the Vermont State House is the centerpiece of the Montpelier Historic District.

Did You Know?

Some of the marble floors of the Vermont State House contain fossils as the marble, which is from Lake Champlain, used to be part of a reef in a shallow sea 480 million years ago.

7. North Carolina State Capitol

Built: 1833 – 1840
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Architect: Architectural firm of Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis; William Nichols, Sr. and his son William Nichols, Jr., Town and Davis, and then David Paton

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The current North Carolina State Capitol building was built in 1833 after the first North Carolina State House burned down in 1831. The North Carolina State Capitol was worked on by a number of architects and designers, but was primarily designed in a Greek Revival-style. The Capitol housed all of North Carolina’s state government until 1888. That year, the Supreme Court and State Library moved into a separate building. Currently, the North Carolina State Capitol is undergoing restoration, which started in September 2019.

Did You Know?

The North Carolina State Capitol has a lot of statues on its grounds, including a replica of the original George Washington statue by Antonio Canova, which was destroyed by the 1831 fire.

6. Maine State House

Built: 1829 – 1832
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Augusta, Maine
Architect: Charles Bulfinch

photo source: Flickr via David Wilson

The Maine State House was completed in 1832, just one year after Augusta became the state’s capital. The building was made using Maine granite and is based on the design of the Massachusetts State House to honor the two states’ history – Maine was part of Massachusetts before it gained statehood in 1820. For several decades following the completion of major renovations in 1911, the Maine State House remained mostly untouched, except for minor repairs. The building was finally updated in the late 1990s and the old dome was replaced in 2014.

Did You Know?

A gilded statue of Minerva, the Lady of Wisdom, designed by William Clark Noble sits atop the dome of the Maine State House – she was also re-gilded and fixed up during the 2014 dome reconstruction.

5. New Hampshire State House

Built: 1816 – 1819
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Concord, New Hampshire
Architect: Stuart Park

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Discussions over a proper state capitol building in New Hampshire began in 1814, but because of the political climate of the U.S. at the time, construction on the New Hampshire State House did not start until 1816. Although it is not the oldest state capitol building, the New Hampshire State House is the oldest state house in the nation in which the legislature still occupies its original chambers. Like the dome on the Massachusetts State House, the New Hampshire State House dome is gilded with gold leaf. To keep the dome looking fresh, it is re-gilded every few decades, most recently in 2016.

Did You Know?

The New Hampshire State House, which rises approximately 150 feet into the air, is still the highest architectural point in the city of Concord.

4. Massachusetts State House

Built: 1795 – 1798
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Architect: Charles Bulfinch

Massachusetts State Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Massachusetts State House was designed by American architect Charles Bulfinch and was completed in 1798. This capitol building is considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture and among Bulfinch’s finest works, and was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance. The most recognizable feature of the Massachusetts State House is its stunning golden dome, which is gilded in 23 karat gold leaf. The last time that the Massachusetts State House was expanded was in 1917 when the east and west wings, designed by architects Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, were completed.

Did You Know?

During World War II, the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House was painted gray so it would not attract the attention of possible enemy ships at sea or enemy planes overhead.

3. New Jersey State House

Built: 1792
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Trenton, New Jersey
Architect: Jonathon Doane

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The New Jersey State House is the third oldest state capitol building still in use and dates back to 1792.  The State House was designed by Jonathon Doane on a 3.75 acre-site that cost 250 British pounds, about $400 today. Like all of the oldest state capitol buildings, the New Jersey State House was expanded several times to meet the growing demands of New Jersey and its citizens. The building houses both chambers of the Legislature (the Senate and the General Assembly), as well as offices for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and several state government departments.

Did You Know?

The New Jersey State House is the closest capitol building to a state border of any state capitol, with the bridge to Pennsylvania located only a few blocks away.

2. Virginia State Capitol

Built: 1785 – 1788
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Architect: Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clérisseau

Virginia State Capitolphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Virginia State Capitol building was designed by Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clérisseau after the Virginia legislature voted to move the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1779. The Capitol’s design is based on the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, France. Besides the Vermont State House, the Virginia State Capitol is the only other state capitol building to accurately copy an ancient model.  Construction began in 1785 and the Virginia General Assembly held its first session in the building in 1788.

Did You Know?

The Virginia State Capitol is one of only eleven Capitols in the United States without an external dome – the others are Capitols of Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee.

1. Maryland State House

Built: 1772 – 1797
Still in Use:  Yes
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Architect: Joseph Horatio Anderson

Maryland State Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Construction of the Maryland State House began in 1772, making it the oldest state capitol building still in use. Due to the ongoing American Revolutionary War, the Maryland State House was not completed until 1797. The building was designed by Joseph Horatio Anderson, who also designed St Anne’s Church across the State Circle.

Although the Maryland State House was still under construction when the Continental Congress came to Annapolis in 1783, they used the Old Senate Chamber – one of the only sections completed at the time – to host their meetings. In 1784, the Continental Congress signed the Treaty of Paris – the document that officially ended the Revolutionary War – in the Maryland State House.

Did You Know?

The Maryland State House is topped by the largest wooden dome in the United States constructed without nails.



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