Hank – We began our day with a walk to the state capitol building. First we checked out the replica buildings of Fort Nashborough, which are right across the street from the hostel. There we learned about the hiccups involved in the creation of Tennessee. Native American lands, claims by Virginia, and more solud claims by North Carolina, and the “state” of Franklin lost to two of those three.
The capitol building is plain and dull. It was not designed to impress anyone. The legislature is in session January through April, so this being May the building was very quiet. There’s none of the grandeur we’ve seen at other capitol buildings. And it was so quiet that as we entered I wondered if anyone was inside.
We tagged into a tour that had already started. There’s not a lot to cover but it was very interesting. Tennessee had two governors during the Civil War. The Union had captured Nashville and parts of the state and Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as the military governor. Meanwhile, the elected governor still controlled the seceded part of the state. Also, the subject if secession was a contentious one. About a third of the state sided with the Union. Consequently, the decision to secede took a long time. Tennessee was the last the secede and then the first to rejoin the Union after ratifying the 14th Amendment.
The building was made of limestone quarried not far from the capitol. But it was cut against the grain which allowed for water damage to accumulate over the years. It got so bad that they thought about demolishing it and building a new one. Instead they replaced all the damaged blocks with limestone from Indiana. You can see where all the replacement blocks went in because they’re all a plain gray in contrast to the grain-filled originals.
Former President Andrew Jackson has two busts, an outside sculpture, and a portrait painting in the building. Former President James Polk, also a former Tennessee governor, has a bust, a portrait, and he and his wife a buried on the capitol grounds. I guess that makes them even as presidents go.
The old photos showing Union soldiers, their tents, and their cannon on the grounds were cool.
Kathy – Keeping it short since Hank already discussed the main topics… Tennessee has such a rich history that I was surprised to see the Tennessee State Capital Building so bland. There is no grand dome or spectacular architecture, and it had far fewer statutes, portraits and information available compared to the many other Capital Buildings we have been to. It was nice, but overall not too impressive.