Clerisseau, Charles-Louis Jefferson, Thomas Architects/Virginia State Capitol Building Commission/1888.
The Virginia State Capitol was built from 1831 to 1888. It is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the most beautiful government buildings in the United States. The Italian Renaissance style capitol is an impressive structure, with 116 feet of frontage on East Capitol Street and 171 feet including its portico. The central portion of the first floor is taken up by a large open rotunda with 84-foot-high domed ceiling. The dome is made of copper covered with gold leaf and it contains 1,200 pounds of gold. Attached to the rear of the rotunda is the Long Gallery, which is 70 feet long and has windows that go all the way across for excellent viewing conditions.
The Virginia State Capitol was designed by French architect Clerisseau and constructed under the supervision of Thomas Jefferson's grandnephew, Charles Lewis Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson's architectural proclamation of independence from Great Britain was the Virginia State Capitol. Since 1788, its neoclassical architecture has impacted public buildings throughout America. The capitol was also home to some of the most important figures in American history: first lady Martha Washington, former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and senator John Randolph all lived within a few blocks of one another.
The current capitol building was built between 1816 and 1829 in accordance with plans drawn up by Jefferson. It is a magnificent example of Greek Revival architecture, featuring a columned portico, large central entrance, and six symmetrical rooms arranged around a square hall. The exterior is painted red brick with white trim. Inside the main chamber, paintings by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Henry, and other important Americans line the walls.
The entire area around the capitol is beautiful, with trees lining the streets and gardens filling the gaps. You can see it all from the top of the Senate Building's dome for views that take in Richmond, Virginia, and the surrounding countryside.
The capitol grounds are open daily except for certain state holidays. Guided tours are available on a limited basis; call or check online for times and details. There are also self-guided tours available online.
Late in 1786, the plaster model for Virginia's Capitol arrived in Richmond. Along with Clerisseau's sketches of his design, Jefferson wanted to produce "models of the front and side... in plaister of Paris." The actual building was not completed until 1811, but it was during this early period that Jefferson began planning what would later be built.
Jefferson started work on the project late in the year 1786. He took over the job of designing the capitol from William Buckland, a British architect working in Philadelphia at the time. The two men had been friends since they met in Paris in 1772 when Jefferson was studying art and architecture there. When Buckland came to Richmond in October 1786, Jefferson showed him around the site where the capitol was to be built and then returned home to Monticello to begin work on his design. They met again in March 1787 and Jefferson informed Buckland that he had finished the plan for the capitol.
The next month, Jefferson went to London where he attended the Royal Academy of Arts to learn about new architectural styles. Upon his return to America in April 1788, he brought with him ideas about the use of marble in public buildings which led to the decision by the Virginia General Assembly to have the capitol built with stone instead of wood.
The Virginia State Capitol was inspired by the Maison Carree, an old Roman temple in Nimes, France. Public Domain Photographer Jefferson requested that a 1:60 scale model be sent back to Richmond. The original plaster model is still on display at the Virginia State Capitol.
Jefferson also designed another important government building for Virginia: the University of Virginia. The UVA campus contains many beautiful structures including Fitzsimons Medical Center and Glenarden House, which are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jefferson also designed his own home, Monticello, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located about 80 miles from Washington DC, it's the largest house in America built solely by one man.
Jefferson also had a strong influence on American architecture. He introduced French style into American buildings using materials available in Virginia at that time. These include wood, which was abundant, as well as brick and stone. His use of these materials can be seen in public buildings across the country.
After Jefferson died in 1826, his architectural designs were used by others. The current Capitol building was designed by Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who adopted many of Jefferson's ideas and designs while creating his own version of a Georgian mansion. It was built between 1829 and 1831 and is now a museum.
"My Retirement Hobby" Jefferson, the architect, is most recognized for building the University of Virginia, in addition to Monticello. Jefferson envisioned the early structures as a "intellectual village" where students and professors might live, learn, and teach together. He planned several buildings that have been realized over time but not yet completed. These include a library, medical facilities, and housing.
Jefferson began planning his university in 1779 when he was thirty-one years old. At the time, few people in America had graduated from college. In order to give future generations of Americans a better chance at success, Jefferson decided to create a university that would help train young men for leadership roles on Virginia's colonial farmlands.
The first stone of the current University of Virginia was laid in 1819 by former President James Monroe, who had served under Jefferson earlier that year. Over the next three decades, Jefferson oversaw many projects at UVA, including plans for new buildings, renovations, and landscaping. His last project was the erection of his own tomb, which can be seen today in the University's Rotunda.
Even after he stopped being involved with the school day-to-day, Jefferson continued to think about how UVA could improve its educational experience for students. In his will, he left money for the construction of dormitories, classrooms, and other facilities needed to make the university function effectively.