‘Insiders’ Tour of the Iowa State Capitol

Posted by Jonathan, November 21st, 2010

Cassie and I have been to the Iowa State Capitol a bunch of times – it’s undoubtedly one of the most amazing buildings in the state.  But visitors aren’t allowed past the second floor :(  The tours stop just short of the amazing golden dome, which has a tiny room on the very top, called the cupola. Its so tantalizing since the room must have an incredible view – we can even see it from our apartment. Anyway, we’ve always wanted to go up there, but thanks to over-zelous lawyers, it’s off limits.  Members of the public can only get to the top if they are accompanied by a state senator or representitive.  Fortunately Cassie knows someone :)  So after waiting many, many years, we finally made it to the top!

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

Becky Schmitz being sworn in

Becky Schmitz (aka Cassie's Mom) being sworn in

Cassie & her Mom

Cassie & her Mom

The state senate

The state senate

The law library

The law library

Looking up at the dome from the ground floor

Looking up at the dome from the ground floor

The stairs going up to the first level of the dome

The stairs going up to the first level of the dome

The view down from the lower of the two viewing balconies in the dome

The view down from the lower of the two viewing balconies in the dome

Cassie at the lower viewing level

Cassie at the lower viewing level

Close up of the dome

Close up of the dome

The stairs up to the higher viewing level - this is the start of the tour which is usually off limits

The stairs up to the higher viewing level - this is the start of the tour which is usually off limits

The stairway comes out of a column and weaves between the inner metal dome on the right, and the outside brick dome on the left

The stairway comes out of a column and weaves between the inner metal dome on the right, and the outside brick dome on the left

The sky background hangs down from the outer dome.

The sky background hangs down from the outer dome. The inner dome is to the left and the outer gold dome is above.

The view down from the higher viewing gallery

The view down from the higher viewing gallery

At the higher viewing gallery - you can see we are at the same level as the flag that is stretched across the top of the dome. After all the trouble we had getting permission to come up here, it was gratifying to see that it was indeed dangrerous. You can't really see in the photo, but the edge of the railing is pretty low- just barely above my waist.

At the higher viewing gallery - you can see we are at the same level as the flag that is stretched across the top of the dome. After all the trouble we had getting permission to come up here, it was gratifying to see that it was indeed dangerous. You can't really see in the photo, but the edge of the railing is pretty low- just barely above my waist.

You can see how their are really two domes - the inner dome is made of metal and holds all the lights.  The brick in the background is the outer dome.  The sky is a big canvas painting which is attached to a huge concave metal backing which hangs from the outer dome.  I have no idea what the CIA tripod thing is.

You can see how their are really two domes - the inner dome is made of metal and holds all the lights. The brick in the background is the outer dome. The sky is a big canvas painting which is attached to a huge concave metal backing which hangs from the outer dome. I have no idea what the CIA tripod thing is.

From the floor, the flag looks like it is attached to the top of the inner dome. Actually it is just laying on the wires which are streched across dome.  We added our initials to the dust :) But it was really scary since the boards aren't attached to the wire in any way - they are just laying there. If we had knocked the board a bit too much it would have slipped through the wires and fallen 100's of feet.

From the floor, the flag looks like it is attached to the top of the inner dome. Actually it is just laying on the wires which are streched across dome. We added our initials to the dust :) But it was really scary since the boards aren't attached to the wire in any way - they are just laying there. If we had knocked the board a bit too much it would have slipped through the wires and fallen 100's of feet.

Looking up at the outer dome from the top of the inner dome.  We are headed up the stairs into the cupola at the top.

Looking up at the outer dome from the top of the inner dome. We are headed up the stairs into the cupola at the top.

The alien spaceship hidden inside the capitol dome.  Actually I think this is the top of the inner dome.  On the other side of this dome is the painting of the sky.

The alien spaceship hidden inside the capitol dome. Actually I think this is the top of the inner dome. On the other side of this dome is the painting of the sky.

We made it to the cupola!

We made it to the cupola!

A panorama of the inside of the cupola

A panorama of the inside of the cupola. Click for the full verson.

The view!  The weather wasn't so great, but the view was still incredible.  I took 50 photos and stitched them into an awesome 360 panorama from the top. Click on it to get the full version.

The view! The weather wasn't so great, but the view was still incredible. I took 50 photos and stitched them into a 360° panorama from the top. Click on it to get the full 8mb version.

Another view of the panorama:

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5 Responses to “‘Insiders’ Tour of the Iowa State Capitol”

kim garbett

I grew up a block and a half from the capital. About where the runway points on the left side of the panorama. We used to sneak up to the top all the time. We would get someone to distract the guard, when they posted one later in our careers and race up to the top. In those days, 50′s there was an open balcony outside the dome that you could get out on and see all of Des Moines just by walking around it. We just had to go down with some family and act like we were with them. It was the best adventure for a ten year old ever. By the way my house is now a parking lot and grade school Webster elementary is part of the freeway. Progress?

Tal zagar

Spectacular!

Jack Phillips

Awesome! Thank you for the photos. You did a great job of documenting something few see anymore. As a ten-year old kid in the mid-60′s, this was a challenging test of my nerves. I made the trip to the top many times and never remember any guard restricting access. There was just a rather obscure door that led to the first stairs of the adventure. The only thing that appears different is that there used to be a fixed built-in ladder in the cupola that went to a little door at the very top. I recall there was a lock with something blocking access to the ladder. Thanks for affirming my memories.

James Burns

You stated (with a smiley face, no less):

“We added our initials to the dust But it was really scary since the boards aren’t attached to the wire in any way – they are just laying there. If we had knocked the board a bit too much it would have slipped through the wires and fallen 100′s of feet.”

It is appalling that you were actually proud of having such reckless disregard for something so precious? That is really shameful! Because of irresponsible and disrespectful people like you…. The public can no longer go there as they could when I was young.

James Burns

You stated (with a smiley face, no less):

\"We added our initials to the dust But it was really scary since the boards aren\’t attached to the wire in any way – they are just laying there. If we had knocked the board a bit too much it would have slipped through the wires and fallen 100\’s of feet.\"

It is appalling that you were actually proud of having such reckless disregard for something so precious? That is really shameful! Because of irresponsible and disrespectful people like you…. The public can no longer go there as they could when I was young.

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