Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jackson: Mississippi's State Capital - Tues., May 2, 2017

As promised, here is a more detailed telling of our visit to Mississippi's state capital. First off, I'd like to compliment Bertie, our tour guide. She is a former school teacher and was a wealth of knowledge. We were her only two students for the tour today. 

The first piece of information she shared with us gave me a good belly laugh, although apparently neither Bertie nor Bob shared my sense of humor. The original building to stand in the spot where the capital was built was a jail. Does no one else see the irony of putting politicians in a building that replaced the jail? All I could think of was Richard Nixon saying, "I am not a crook!"

State penitentiary 
With my laugh of the day complete, we continued on to see this beautiful building. Bertie showed us the Rotunda's Main Dome and explained that it is a "double shell." Theodore Link, the architect, employed a technique dating back to the Renaissance and the design of some of Europe's greatest churches. The technique uses a "double shell" design to solve two problems inherent in the design of large domes: one is a need for different proportions for the dome's interior and exterior; the other solves an inherent structural challenge. 

"Double shell" refers to two layers or shells that comprise the dome, one visible from inside and one from outside. The two shells are designed to help support each other.

In regard to the different proportions needed for the inside and outside, when viewing from a distance, a dome should rise high above the body of the building. When viewed from the inside, though, a dome proportioned for exterior viewing would appear much too high. Conversely, a dome appropriately proportioned for interior viewing would appear too short and squat on the outside. The double shell design corrects those appearances.

The Mississippi Capitol's Main Dome shares another characteristic with other capitol domes: it sits on top of a cylindrical element called a drum. The drum provides the height needed to achieve the appropriate proportions for the dome's interior space and its exterior form. A drum also provides an ideal location for windows, which would be very difficult to incorporate in the surface of the dome itself. When the drum is surrounded by a colonnade like the one at this capitol, these windows allow natural light to filter into the Rotunda. [The above information about the Main Dome is from a tour hand-out written by Lawson Newman, AIA; WFT Architects, P.A.]

The Rotunda has walls of Italian white marble with Belgian black marble molding. The eight columns and friezes are man-made art marble called scagliola (plaster made to imitate marble). It helped keep the cost down. Bertie told us two ways to tell real marble from scagliola: (1) scagliola has hairline cracks in it, and (2) real marble is a bit colder to the touch than scagliola. 

We then turned around to take in the beautiful grand staircase. It is unique in that the architect used stepped consoles and corbels to create a wavy balustrade.

Grand staircase with consoles and corbels
 forming flanking walls to the stairs

Grand staircase with three stained-glass windows
These stained glass windows are a little different from most stained glass windows. In addition to the individual pieces of colored glass divided by lead, some of the glass has painting on it; for example, the face and arms of the American indian, and the face of Mississippi.
The American Indian

Other impressive features we saw included leaded glass windows which recently had been completely re-set, the golden eagle for the top of the dome, and the "skylights" and stained glass between floors.

Leaded glass windows
A very unique feature incorporated into this capital are stained-glass skylights between floors. How, you may ask, does the light get through between floors?
If you look at the second photo below, you will see that small glass squares are set in the floor above the stained glass which allow light to pass through to the ceiling below.
Stained-glass skylights in the
ceiling between floors

Glass squares set in the floor allow light to
filter through to the stained-glass ceiling below.
Each state capital has a figure or piece of art atop their dome; Mississippi has a gold eagle. The eagle's underlying material is fabricated through a process called repoussé. Sheets of copper were pressed, rolled and hammered into a reverse mold of the eagle. Where the sheets overlap, they are rivetted and soldered together to form the eagle.

The eagle is gilded with gold leaf. Gold forms one of the best protective finishes available. It is resistant to oxidation, corrosion and ultraviolet degradation.

House of Representatives
On the grounds of the capital is a historical marker about the Capitol Rally held here in 1966, after James Meredith's three-week "March Against Fear" from Memphis, Tennessee. James Meredith was shot and wounded. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael and others gave stirring speeches at this gathering. This rally brought together all the major civil rights organizations in one place and introduced the Black Power movement. 

Those were the highlights of our tour. We highly recommend that in your travels you stop to see the gorgeous state capitals of our country. You will learn a lot!

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