Colorado State Capitol Virtual Tour
The magnificent rotunda was built in the center of the Greek cross floor plan. When standing on the first floor the dome is 150 ft overhead, and it is the formal enclosure for more than 220,000 cubic feet of public space. The rotunda itself is made up of 128 pilasters, 60 spotlights, and sixteen stained glass windows. When the building was redecorated in 1955, interior decorator R.L. Noble adopted the colors of Corinth, Greece in order to capture the true flavor of the Corinthian style so loved by the original Capitol architect, Elijah E. Myers.
While planning the capitol, architect E. E. Myers envisioned a rotunda beautified by sixteen stained glass windows. These windows theoretically would represent the mineral, environmental and human resources of Colorado. The supervising architect revamped this idea in 1898 envisioning it as a Hall of Fame that honored the state's pioneers. The main problem with the Hall of Fame idea was deciding who the state should officially honor. While the Capitol Board of Directors chose seven people rather easily, there were still nine honorees left to decide upon. State Historical Society Curator W.C. Ferril prepared a list of one hundred and eight names, and of those only four made the final cut. Local newspapers, influential people, organizations, and communities all pled their case as to why their local son or daughter should be honored, but all found their requests "ordered filed." Educators lobbied for Professor Horace Hale, citizens of Silverton promoted Otto Mears, veterans wanted acknowledgment for their Civil War leaders, and the Pioneer's Ladies Aid Society pushed for the reluctant W.N. Byers to have a spot.
Once the notables were decided upon, the $1,600 contract went to artist John J. McClymont and the Copeland Glass Company of Denver. The Elysian Glass Company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado produced the newer stained glass.
"In the strong rugged faces is read the enterprise, energy and determination that led the tide of empire westward, that made the magnificent structure a necessity, and has given to the state of Colorado all the elements of which great states are builded."
The Coloradans honored in the stained glass windows include:
General Bela M. Hughes - Hughes was a true leader of overland transportation development in the West. He was an elected official of the Central Overland, California and Pike's Peak Express Company. He was also involved with his cousin Ben Holladay's business, the Overland Mail Company. After becoming an established and respected lawyer in 1867, Hughes continued his interests in the transportation industry by helping to build the Denver Pacific Railroad and the Denver & South Park. He was later named the Denver Pacific's first president. Democrat Hughes was also nominated for governor in 1876 but lost to the heavily favored Republican candidate, John Routt.
William N. Byers - After Byers surveyed Omaha, Washington, Oregon, and California as the United States deputy surveyor, he heard rumor of a large gold strike in Colorado. Byers moved to the area and bought a newspaper company. By April 23, 1859 he had printed the first edition of the Rocky Mountain News. Byers was a newspaper man for twenty years, until he sold it to an outside investor. Byers was also instrumental in the creation of the first telegraph line from Denver to New Mexico and was appointed Denver's postmaster by President Lincoln in 1864.
Nathaniel P. Hill - Professor Hill was a student and teacher of chemistry at Yale and Brown University. He came to Black Hawk to research smelting techniques and developed a better way to smelt. He opened the Boston and Colorado Smelting Company in 1867 which was so profitable that he had to open another plant in Argo, North Denver in 1878. After being successful in academia and business, Hill entered the realm of politics, serving as a United States Senator from 1879-1885.
Alexander Majors - Majors was one of the co-founders of the freighting firm Russell, Majors, and Waddell which established the Central, Overland, California & Pikes Peak Express, commonly referred to as the Pony Express. Majors was the firm's field man often overseeing its operations on the Oregon Trail, and he developed the Pony Express Riders "Oath of Good Conduct." Major died having creating one of the most important organizations in the history of the West, and was respected as one the nation's greatest freighters.
Christopher "Kit" Carson - A legend in his own time, Kit Carson was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the development of the West's mystique. Moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, at seventeen, Carson began an illustrious career as an Indian fighter and fur trapper, and for some time took up residence at Bent's Fort. In 1842, Carson became John Fremont's guide through the Rocky Mountains, Oregon, and California. Fremont's exaggerated reports made Carson into a national hero, and often described him as a superhuman dynamo. Carson was also instrumental in the Bear Flag rebellion in California, defended Los Angeles in the Mexican - American War, and later became a war hero in the Civil War battle of Valverde.
John Dyer - Coming to Colorado on June 22, 1861 as a traveling Methodist preacher, Father Dyer focused his proselytizing efforts in the rough mining camp of Buckskin Joe. Father Dyer became more than just a preacher, but became a confidant and friend to the miners who were far from home and family. Father Dyer was also the first Chaplain of the State Senate of Colorado. His travels and exploits are recorded in his autobiography, The Snow Shoe Itinerant.
Chief Ouray - At age seventeen Ouray, "The Arrow", became Chief of the Uncompahgre Tribe of the Ute Nation, a nation that desperately needed a diplomatic leader. The multi-lingual Chief Ouray visited with President Grant, and in 1868 signed over the tribes' ancestral claims to the San Luis Valley in order to preserve further encroachment onto Indian lands in the San Juans. This uneasy peace was broken by miners who began blasting the mineral rich San Juan Mountains, or as Chief Ouray called them the "Shining Mountains." Chief Ouray believed that the Utes had no choice but to surrender these lands, but many tribes within the Ute Nation chose instead to fight. The infamous Meeker Massacre in Rio Blanco County was the result of the animosity that developed between the Utes and the encroaching white settlers. Ultimately, the United States forced the Native Americans onto new reservations. President Hayes never lost his respect for Chief Ouray, describing him in 1880 as the "most intelligent man I've ever conversed with." In a time of change, strife, and challenge Chief Ouray was honored by both Ute and non-Indian people.
James "Jim" Baker - Considered Colorado's first white pioneer, Baker came to the Rocky Mountains with the American Fur Company in 1839. Living in the wilderness and trapping beaver, he became highly regarded by the Shoshone Indian tribe and later became interpreter for D.C. Oakes, who was eventually the agent for the Ute Indians. After surviving a series of brutal cold winters Baker returned to "civilization" in 1855; becoming chief scout / guide for the U.S. military at Fort Laramie. He was also involved in the Mormon War gaining provisions for troops travelling from Fort Bridger to Fort Union. Baker settled for a short time on Clear Creek in Colorado, but eventually chose to retire as a rancher in Wyoming. It was said of him that he was " a generous trapper type who would peril his life for a friend at any time or divide his last morsel of food."
James William Denver - Known as the man for whom Denver City was named, General James William Denver was Governor of the Territory of Kansas, a Federal Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and served in the California State Legislature. Ironically, though Colorado's capitol was named after him, he only visited the state a handful of times.
General William Palmer - Palmer is best known as a builder of railroads, but he was also a successful businessman, military man and philanthropist. He was a Union Cavalry General during the Civil War, later founded the town of Colorado Springs and subsequently established the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in Pueblo. Palmer was instrumental in bringing the Denver and the Kansas Pacific railroad lines to Denver in 1871. His empire continued to grow when he built the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, the first narrow gauge railroad in the United States. Palmer was also one of the founders of Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
Mrs. Frances Wisebart Jacobs - Mrs. Jacobs was an ardent supporter of charitable organizations that assisted the poor, aged, hungry, homeless, and sick. She was the president of the Hebrew Benevolent Ladies Aid Society, founder of the Ladies Relief Society of Denver, instrumental in the development of the first Community Chest / United Way, created the first free kindergarten in the state, and supported the founding of the internationally recognized National Jewish Hospital.
Casimiro Barela - Barela was a highly respected legislator whose career in the State Senate spanned twenty-five continuous years including time as a member of Colorado's Constitutional Convention in 1875. Elected from Las Animas County, Barela was instrumental in ensuring that Colorado legislation was printed in the Spanish language so that the native Spanish-speaking people in his county and the rest of the state could understand the law. His respect for Spanish-speaking people made him the logical choice to act as Consul for both Mexico and Costa Rica. In addition to these interests, he also became known as one of the state's best livestock men, and the quality of his herd was supposedly unparalleled.
Dr. Richard G. Buckingham - Buckingham was not only reputedly Denver's most prominent obstetrician, but he was also heavily involved in politics. After Dr. Buckingham's short time in Colorado's Territorial Legislature he took up the cause of the handicapped. His support helped influence the creation of the Institute for Deaf Mutes and Blind (Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind), an institution that he eventually became president and manager of. In 1876 Dr. Buckingham became the 13th mayor of Denver, and later he helped to found the Denver Medical Association.
Benjamin Eaton - Eaton is known as a pioneer in the development and creation of large scale irrigation and farming projects in Colorado, particularly in the region of Northern Colorado. In 1863 Eaton left New Mexico and lived on a homestead near Greeley on the Cache la Poudre River, an area that now proudly bears his name. By purchasing subsidy lands from the Union Pacific at a low price, he was able to develop several important irrigation projects. Eaton was elected to serve on the Territorial Legislature twice and as the state's Governor from 1885 - 1887.
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last modified June 20, 2003