State 19: Washington - October 27, 2017
“A wise man never knows all. Only a fool knows everything.”
We woke up in a Walmart in Lacey, WA well rested and ready for a brand new day. The first item on the agenda was a 5-mile drive West to Olympia, WA to tour the state capitol, and state museum. We began our day at the State Capitol building. The external construction of the capitol had quite a few noteworthy features. The facade of the capitol was constructed in sandstone mined from a quarry within Washington. At 287 feet tall, the Washington Capitol building features the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States, and the fifth tallest in the world! The foyer of the capitol is supported by 8 massive Corinthian columns. If nothing else, this capitol certainly had curb appeal! Please see the pictures below.
We entered the building at the North entrance via the grand staircase, and were pleased to see there were no security checks. Always a good first impression! Our research revealed Washington had previously eliminated the tour guide from the state budget. This is always very disturbing to witness when visiting a capitol, and says “Welcome to whatever state! We are so broke, we can’t even afford a tour guide!”. Recently, Washington decided to reinstate their guided capitol tours, and subcontracted the job to an outside company. Typically, capitol tour guides are state employees, volunteers or occasionally members of the state’s historical society. Subcontracting any task is usually a more costly option, but what do I know! I am just a visitor! Nevertheless, I commend Washington for reinstating their guided tours of their capitol.
We found the tour guide's desk adjacent to the main entrance, and waited 15 minutes for the next tour! Once the tour commenced, we were led back outside to the top of the external grand staircase. This was the first time we were brought outside during a guided capitol tour, and could not wait to see where we were being led. The capitol building was designed to house the executive and legislative branches of the Washington government, and across the street the Temple of Justice houses the State’s Supreme Court. This was the designed use for the buildings back in 1928, and today the buildings were still being used in the intended manner. Many capitols we visit have outgrown their facilities. They then either add poorly designed additions onto the existing building, or move the government out altogether! Clearly this was not the case with Washington. Good job! There are 42 steps leading up to the front door of the building in honor of Washington being the 42nd state admitted into the union. The front doors of the capitol building were solid bronze. One of the bronze doors were embossed to depict the state’s first capitol building, which burned down long ago. What great design elements that are uniquely Washington! Please see the pictures below.
We walked back inside, and headed to the capitol's central room. This building had the most interior marble I had seen of any capitol thus far, and was quite impressive. In the center of the floor directly beneath the apex of the dome was a bronze embossed seal of Washington. On each corner of the central room stood a symbolic roman fire pot, and surrounding the torches were the flags of the 39 counties of Washington. I didn’t even know state counties had flags, and this was a very unique feature of the Washington Capitol Building. Please see the pictures below!
Tiffany and Company was commissioned to create 480 custom light fixtures for the Washington Capitol Building, and together they comprised the largest collection of Tiffany bronzes lighting in the entire world! Although all examples on display were absolutely exquisite, one fixture stood out among all others. Weighing in at 10,000 pounds, 25 feet in height, and suspended to the apex of the dome by a 101 foot chain, the central room chandelier is the largest lighting fixture ever produced by Tiffany. In fact, the chandelier is so large, you could fit a full size Volkswagon beetle inside! The chandelier has 202 lights, and they are always illuminated to preserve the bulbs life as scaffolding must be erected for them to be changed. There is also a very interesting story about this chandelier. On February, 28 2001, the Nisqually Earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale rocked Olympia, and the chandelier swung to and fro across the central room like a pendulum for 3 nerve racking days but was otherwise undamaged! Please see the pictures below of the most impressive chandelier you will ever see!
Next, we were led to the State Reception Room where special dignitaries are entertained, and Gubernatorial press conferences are held. Reception rooms are typically one of the most beautiful areas within the capitol, and the Washington State Reception Room was no exception. Please see the pictures below.
On display within the State Reception Room was an extremely rare example of a 42-star American flag with a very interesting story! America was only a 42 state country for approximately 7 months from the day Washington became a state on November 11, 1889, until Idaho was admitted as the 43rd state on July 3, 1890. Since Washington DC only celebrated the addition of states annually on the 4th of July, the American flag went from 41 stars in 1889, to 43 stars in 1890! There are only four examples 42 star flags in existence, and it was an honor to view this rare example of antique Americana.
Next, we were lead to the House and Senate which mirrored each other in appearance. There were two noteworthy points of interest within the legislative chambers. The first of which is an elevator in the far corner of each of the rooms leading to a cafeteria beneath each chamber. This enables the legislators to eat their meals without having to leave the building saving a lot of time. Rumor has it, the food is not that bad, and each legislators pays for their own meals. Please see the pictures below.
The second point of interest is an engraving encircling the crown molding of both chambers! The engravings list the 39 counties of Washington in pairs. One of the counties is located West of the Cascade Mountains, and the other county is East of the Cascades. This signifies although the state is geographically divided, all of the counties are equally represented in Washington’s Government. Since there are only 39 counties to pair up, you may be wondering which one stands alone. That county would be non-other than the county which is so nice it had to be named twice; Walla Walla!
We were then lead into the Governor’s office. Occasionally the Governor actually comes out to say hello and shake hands, but we had no such luck during our visit. The governor’s office did possess a very unusual feature worth mentioning; The Hall of Governors. The Hall of Governors is gallery consisting of a painted portrait of every sitting Governor of a state. While most states have a Hall of Governors, it's location of display varies greatly. Some display the portraits in the corridors of the capitol, and others display them in the state museum. Washington was the first state we have seen who actually displays their Hall of Governors in the Governor’s office. Unfortunately, the security guard on duty did not allow pictures inside the office.
As we exited the Governor’s office, I saw this sign, and couldn’t help but laugh! If you have a heart attack while visiting the Washington Capitol you can be rest assured the Governor of Washington will be by your side with a defibrillator in hand to save your life… If he happens to be available.
Since Washington is the only state named after a president, I was not surprised to see a bust of the father of our country. However, the brass bust of Washington was humongous! It had to be at least 10 times larger than a human head! Apparently, it was once a common practice rub the Washington’s nose for good luck, but it is no longer allowed! Too bad, because that big brass shiny schnoz was just asking to rubbed. Please see the pictures below
The tour of the Washington Capitol concluded in a very odd location. We were led down a hall to a dirty, poorly lit, rundown room in the basement of the building. For some unfathomable reason, the state of Washington chose this nasty room surrounded by trash cans as the ideal location to commemorate the accomplishment of women in Washington’s government. The cheap poster board displays appeared to either be an afterthought, of slapped together so they can say they at least did something. As a woman, I was embarrassed by this pitiful display in an awful location, which speaks volumes about what the state thinks about women in government. Please see the pictures below
When we embark on a capitol tour, we never know who or what we are walking into! Sometimes we are in groups of 50 or more, and other times we are alone. Sometimes we are accompanied by class of 1st graders on a field trip, and other times we are joined by a church group of senior’s citizens. Regardless of who is present, the diverse company on our capitol tours thus far enhances the touring experience; until today! There is one type of person we have avoided thus far, who unfortunately accompanied us on our tour of the Washington Capitol. That person is the dreaded heckler!!!
Hecklers can be broken down into two categories. The first type I like to call the “critic heckler”. This type of heckler blatantly, loudly, obnoxiously and extremely publicly pollutes his environment with comments of critique throughout the tour. A statement the critic heckler may make on a tour is, “This place is a dump! Who the hell cleans up around here?”. The second type of heckler, I like to refer to as the “know it all heckler” This type of heckler either already knows everything about the tour, or believes he does. The know it all heckler will frequently interrupt the tour by interjecting additional information, or even ask the tour guide when he is going to mention a particular point of interest! On the day of our tour of the Washington Capitol all present fell victim to the dreaded “know it all heckler. All throughout the tour, he constantly interrupted the guide, and at times even hijacked the tour. To make matters worse, our heckler photo bombed my picture of the 42 star flag as seen above. Yes, he was as cocky and arrogant as he appears in the picture. To make matters worse, he was also a lobbyist whom was very proud of his profession, and took the opportunity to promote a watered down and distorted version of his job.
Let me be the one to set the record straight!!! America currently faces a plethora of issues, but none are more grave than special interest lobbyists! A Lobbyist is an unethical profession undermining our Democracy, and contributing to the erosion of our liberties. Lobbyists bribe, deal, convince, connive, and use other underhanded tactics to entice lawmakers to vote in a specific manner favorable to whomever the lobbyist’s employer may be. The result is legislation being passed which benefits a small segment of society, instead of ones which are in the best interest of the population as a whole. The laws we all abide by as citizens should be aimed towards the betterment of all Americans, and not merely a very select few for whom the lobbyist is championing. For America to progress forward in any meaningful manner, politicians and lobbyists need to get out of bed with each other! Perhaps even more importantly, Americans need to stop being oblivious to what is occurring in government, and hold their elected officials accountable for their actions! Americans have created the current chaos in our government by pleading ignorance, and it is time to make a change!
After departing the capitol building, we were going visit the State Museum, but apparently it no longer exists! In 2014, the state quietly closed the museum due to budget cuts! I was absolutely shocked! Washington is the only state we have come across on our cross country trip whom just abandoned their capitol state museum. Clearly, Washington must not care about their history, and that is totally unacceptable in a potential new home state! Shame on you Washington!!!
After departing the Washington Capitol, we went to the library to catch up on computer work, and then drove 19 miles to Lakewood, WA. We will be spending the next 4 days there visiting my Cousin Joe and his family. Since they live on the other side of the country, I have not seen them in over 25 years, and I am greatly looking forward to catching up.