The Arkansas State Capitol building, designed in the Neo-classical style, was erected over a century ago as a duplicate of the US Capitol and has been used as a stand-in in several movies. Arkansas granite, six bronze doors, and three Tiffany's of New York chandeliers grace the Arkansas State Capitol building. The original dome on this building was destroyed by fire in 1871. It was rebuilt within one year at a cost of $150,000.
The capital city of Arkansas, Little Rock, was originally called North Fork after its location near the northern end of what is now called the Arkansas River. In 1836, the town's name was changed to honor President Andrew Jackson who had died two years earlier. Today, Little Rock is the largest city in Arkansas and the seat of Pulaski County. It is also the most segregated city in the state with respect to race and income. The population was 240,000 in 2000. Of these, more than 95 percent were white.
Little Rock has a long history of racial tension including violence between the races during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, nine black students were arrested for attempting to integrate the all-white Central High School. They were charged with trespassing and given suspended sentences. In 1969, four young blacks were killed when police officers fired into a crowd during protests against housing segregation. The next day, five more blacks were killed when police opened fire on another protest group.
The Old State House Museum is Arkansas's first state house and the oldest standing state capitol west of the Mississippi River. Since its construction began in 1833, the structure and its grounds have witnessed many of Arkansas' most significant events. The Old State House is a national landmark located in downtown Little Rock. It is open daily for visits from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The museum is an affiliate of the National Park Service. Its exhibits focus on the history of Arkansas government, from its founding in 1836 by President Andrew Jackson to present day. Exhibits also detail the experiences of Little Rock's residents during times of war and peace.
The Old State House is one of only three remaining original capital buildings in use today as legislative bodies (the other two are in Washington, D.C.). It was here that Arkansas lawmakers over the years has made decisions that have affected the lives of their constituents for good or bad. During World War II, the building was used as a military tribunal venue where approximately 250 Japanese Americans were detained before being sent back to Japan to be held in concentration camps.
After the war, the Old State House became home to several agencies under the supervision of the Department of Interior. These included the Social Security Board and the Civil Service Commission.
However, some of the most fascinating, and dare we say, beautiful, state capitol buildings in the United States are not perfect duplicates of the renowned one in Washington. Of course, classical influences abound, but capital buildings from New York to Hawaii come in a variety of styles and sizes. Some are grandiose works of architecture while others are quite plain. There are statehouses that are modern and functional, while others date back to the early 20th century when electricity was first used for lighting.
All told, there are 17 state capitols in the United States, including their houses and offices. Several states have more than one capital city-for example, California has Sacramento and San Francisco as its two capital cities. The District of Columbia is a federal district located between Virginia and Maryland, with a population of approximately 700,000. It is therefore considered a state for purposes of representation in Congress and distribution of federal funds. However, because it lacks a legislative assembly of its own, the president can assign agencies, committees, and other bodies to meet in the district without violating the separation of powers provided for in the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to their role as states' capitals, several other structures play important roles in the lives of their residents. Many statehouses now contain museums devoted to history and culture. Others are home to public libraries or judicial systems. A few remain active military headquarters during times of war or national security crises.