I grew up in Pennsylvania and went to college near Harrisburg, and yet I never made it to the capitol building until this past weekend. After spending so much time in and around the Wisconsin capitol building while living in Madison, I had high expectations for Harrisburg—none of which were met.
Just so that we’re on the same page, here were some of my expectations after living in Madison:
- View of the city from the rotunda.
- Lively surrounding area (shops, restaurants, etc.) outside the building.
- Bright and friendly inside the building.
What I did get was a free guided tour and a chance to wander around the building by myself after the tour, both of which were good and welcome. I also got to enter through an x-ray machine (apparently the PA capitol is not as, ehrm, open as the WI capitol), and the people I encountered were … I won’t say unfriendly, but I won’t say friendly, either. Living in Madison, I strangely missed the curtness of strangers that I was familiar with down east, not entirely trusting the famous Midwest Nice, but when you’re obviously a tourist walking around the state’s capitol building, you’d expect people to be more overtly helpful.
“You’re wandering around lost with a camera in your hand. Are you looking for the place the tours begin?”
– said no one in Harrisburg ever
That said, the building itself is beautiful, with a rotunda modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica and a staircase modeled after the Paris Opera House. Obviously, I then had “Masquerade” stuck in my head the rest of the tour, but it was worth it for a go on those marble steps.
And the floors were unexpected and fun. In fact, they were my favorite part of the whole building. From one end to the other, the mosaics represent the natural and industrial treasures of the commonwealth. I tried to get good pictures of all my favorites, but the lighting in the building was fairly abysmal. It was either blurry or really bright flash distortions.
Anyway, overall, I’m so glad I finally made it to my home state’s capitol to see its beautiful architecture and quirky flooring. Worth it? Of course, although I’m not sure if I’ll be rushing to get back there anytime soon.
If You Go
- Admissions: free tour!
- Parking is abysmal. I parked on the street for $3 per hour, but I could have probably figured out some kind of public transit or garage deal to make it cheaper. If I’d taken my bike, that would have been a breeze! One cool thing about the parking meters is they’ll text you when you’re about to run out of time.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of my experiences next door at the State Museum.
Call for help: Does anyone want to help me understand Gimp? I’m using it to work with my photos and feel like it’s a constant fight. I used Snagit for years at my job, which apparently uses a very different logic, so I’m just lost when using Gimp.