Oasis in the Desert

"If we want better results, we have to make better choices"

Martin O'Malley

State 25: Arizona - December 28, 2017


We woke up at a Walmart in Tucson well rested and excited about the day. Today we drive 118 miles Northwest to Arizona's Capitol City of Phoenix. Phoenix has a thriving architectural community, and was once home to the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for Arizona; Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed and completed 532 structures, and authored 20 books! Wright believed in a design form called organic architecture or creating structures in harmony with humanity and it's surrounding environment! Sounds nice to me! With a creative career spanning over 70 years, Wright designed original and innovative houses, offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels, museums and other structures in the US and throughout the world! In 1991, Wright was recognized by the American Institute of Architects "the greatest American architect of all time". Frank Lloyd Wright moved to Phoenix in 1937, and founded the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. In 1957, Wright was so appalled by Arizona State Legislature's proposed design for the capitol building, he took it upon himself to develop his design of the building at the age of 89 years old! Wright referred to his vision as "The Oasis" and it included water fountains, vegetation, and a unique and fascinating looking spire. Tragically, Wright’s design was rejected by the state legislature as too costly. In 2004 the spire from Wright's design was constructed in Scottsdale, AZ and his original rendering of the Arizona State Capitol still sits in his office at his winter home. Please see the pictures below of Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the Arizona Capitol Building.

We found a parking space without much difficulty, and made our way to the Arizona State Capitol building. The external façade of the building consisted of granite, topped with a copper dome, and appeared small for the head of a state's government. The state's 1950 replica of the Liberty Bell was on display front and center in the capitol courtyard! Many states do not display their Liberty Bell replica, and I applaud Arizona for displaying theirs in such a prominent location. Unfortunately, as I got closer to the bell, I made a very disturbing discovery! The Liberty Bell's clapper “the bells ringer” was chained to the frame preventing the bell from chiming. While I am sure this was done as a measure for safety or preservation, publicly chaining the clapper of the Liberty Bell directly in front of the state capitol sends a very unpatriotic message! I guess the Arizona state government does not want to let freedom ring! Please see the pictures below!

Upon entering the capitol, I was pleased to see there was no security search at the door, and the building was free and open to the public! Always a good first impression! To my immediate right was a wooden door with the words “MUSEUM TOURS” written on the glass, so I naturally opened the door. A young woman with short brunette hair came running towards me, and said, “What are you doing?”. I replied, “I would like a tour of the capitol”. The young woman then informed me there are no longer guided tours at the capitol. I then asked her, “Why did I just walk through a door that says MUSEUM TOURS?” to which she had no response! Not a very good first impression!

Construction on the Arizona Capitol was completed in 1901 with expansions occurring in 1918 and 1938 in the same style architecture. The capitol was home to the Arizona Legislature until 1960 when 2 separate buildings for the House and Senate were constructed. The Governor's Office also moved out in 1974 after the executive tower was built in the rear of the capitol building. Since the Legislators, and even the Governor have long moved out, The Arizona Capitol building no longer serves in any official capacity as the state's government. In 1981, the building was converted into the Arizona Capitol Museum, and restored to its 1910 appearance. Due to budget deficits over the years, the restoration was halted, and rooms remain incomplete to this very day! After visiting 25 state capitols, I have never heard of a state capitol museum. Call me old fashioned, but I believe the state capitol building should serve as the head of a state's government. However, I like a state that challenges the status quo, so I am looking forward to seeing Arizona’s State Capitol Museum!

There are 4 floors in the Arizona Capitol Museum, and we began on the 1st floor!

At the far end of the hall was the most historic flag we had encountered on our entire cross country trip: The American flag from the USS Arizona. USS Arizona was a battleship in the Pacific Fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On “The day that will live in infamy”, a Japanese bomb detonated the ships powder magazine, and the Arizona sank killing 1,177 officers and crewmen. The wreck of the USS Arizona and her fallen crew lay at the bottom of the Pearl Harbor to this very day! Around the corner from the flag, was an actual piece of the wreckage from the USS Arizona. America has known war for as long as we have been a nation, but until Pearl Harbor, the battles have always been fought in foreign lands! It was a powerful and somber moment to stare at these two significant examples of our history!

Next, we crossed the hall, and walked through 3 rooms plastered from floor to ceiling with promotional material from the NBA team the Phoenix Suns! There were huge floor to ceiling pictures of the basketball players, team statistics, cheerleader uniforms, and even autographed sneakers signed by Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, and Shaquille O'neil. While It was interesting to see Shaq’s size 26, I would could not fathom why the Arizona Capitol Museum restored to a 1910 appearance featured 3 rooms advertising a professional basketball team which was founded in 1968! Please see the pictures below of the most inappropriate display I have ever seen in capitol building!

After departing the 1st floor, we continued our exploration through the remaining 3 floors. The room which once housed the capitol library was completely empty! There was not one book or bookcase to be found! Even worse, hanging all over the library walls was the most awful art on what appeared to be painted bed sheets! Please see the pictures below!

In the old Governor’s reception room there was a strange timeline of US history which included the dates other states were admitted into the union. The beautiful original wood flooring was covered with the ugliest carpeting I had ever seen! Please see the pictures below!

Another head scratcher was a massive Arizona flag constructed solely from Legos! While the massive lego build was certainly an impressive patriotic feat, it looked extremely misplaced in the Arizona Capitol building! Please see the pictures below!

I was starting to notice a recurring pattern of vacant rooms with inexplicable, inapplicable, inappropriate, and poorly constructed displays appearing to be from Kinkos! Please see the pictures below!

The doors to the Old Senate Chamber were locked, but I could tell the room was empty by looking through to crack between the doors. I decided to try my luck at the Old House Chamber across the hall! The Old House was the most restored room in the capitol building, and the Speaker and the Chief Clerk's offices off the main chamber were most impressive! Unfortunately, only a small section of the House Gallery seating were present, which looked absolutely ridiculous! Please see the pictures below!

Although we always like to see a state publicly display their constitution, Arizona had apparently photo copied theirs, and placed the copies in plastic sheets housed in a cheap 3 ring binder on the speakers desk! What a poor presentation, of the very document guaranteeing the freedoms of the Arizonians! Please see the pictures below.

Please see additional pictures below of our visit to the Arizona Capitol Building!

After departing the state capitol building, State Capital Museum, or whatever it was I had just left, I walked onto the capitol courtyard in search of the Arizona State legislative branch. When the state legislators moved out of the capitol building in 1960, they built two separate identical buildings across from one another on either side of what we know as the “State Capitol Museum”. This is the first time I had seen a State’s House and Senate located in two separate buildings, and the exterior of both were old, dated, and ugly. We began with the House building. Upon entering, I was greeted by a very cranky and sarcastic security guard, whom proceeded to perform a security search. Then, I took the elevator to the 3rd floor to view the House from the gallery, which was overall unremarkable. The stained folding padded seats in the balcony were reminiscent of my high school auditorium. Please see the pictures below.

Next, we headed across the courtyard to the Senate building. I walked through the front doors, and not only was there no security search, I was greeted by the most cheerful security guard I had ever encountered on my cross country trip! He even offered me a piece of candy! Assuming both buildings were identical, I entered the elevator to go to the Senate Gallery on the 3rd floor, and it reeked of Marijuana! At least I now know why the security guard was so damn happy! For the life of me, I still could not figure why they would have metal detectors in the House but not in the Senate! Perhaps they are putting something in the House’s water to make them cranky and suspicious, or perhaps the House should take a toke of what the Senate is smoking! After arriving on the 3rd floor, we entered the Senate via the gallery. Both chambers mirrored each other unremarkably with one exception. On the walls surrounding the Senate hung pictures of every Speaker of the Senate in Arizona's history. The Speaker of the Senate is also the Lieutenant Governor, and largely goes unacknowledged! This is the first capitol whom has honored the Lieutenant Governors of the past, and for that I give Arizona a big Cross Country Couple two thumbs up! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the pictures up close up from the balcony! Please see the pictures below.

After departing the Senate building, Nate and I agreed we had seen all we needed to see of the Arizona government, and made our way back to the parking lot to reunite with Rosie. However, on the way back, we passed a variety of cacti, and decided to take a closer look. My favorite was a very cool cactus appearing to have 3 cacti balanced on top of each other! Nate’s favorite cactus was a large saguaro planted in 2012 in celebration for the State’s Centennial, which was lovingly reinforced to prevent it from becoming damaged. Nate joked that these two cacti were his favorite parts of his entire day at the Arizona State Capitol! Please see the pictures below.

Usually, Nate writes the capitol blog posts, and I have told him at times he is a tad harsh in his reviews. However, I chose to write this post, because I was flabbergasted by the absurd presentation of the Arizona Capitol Building/Museum. It is a travesty the Arizona Legislature did not utilize the very unique design of renowned Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. If they had, Arizona today would be the most unique and historic state capitol in the entire US! On our cross country trip, we have had the privilege of visiting a few of the spectacular buildings Wright designed, and many attract paying visitors from all over the world! Instead, the Arizona capitol complex today consists of a hodgepodge of ugly, dated and decaying office buildings. Worst of all, the original capitol building turned museum is poorly designed, partly restored, and largely vacant with no tour guide! After visiting 24 state capitols over the past 6 months, Arizona’s Capitol building was the most disappointing and deplorable I have seen on my cross county trip. If Arizona ends up becoming my new home state, I would be embarrassed to call this building my state capitol!

Today, the separate Senate and House buildings constructed instead of Wrights design are falling into disrepair, and no longer adequately serve the spacial needs of Arizona State government! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Arizona corrected their 1957 mistake, and long at last brought Frank Lloyd Wright's vision of the Arizona State Capitol in to fruition? The Arizona Capitol Complex would instantly go from being consistently ranked as one of the worst in the country, to being the only capitol building designed by the greatest American Architect of all time! Arizona; its time to do the “Wright” thing!!!

After departing the Arizona Capitol, we drove 19 miles East to a Library in Mesa to catch a few hours on some computer work, and then went to a nearby Walmart to spend the night.

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