Kentucky's Old State House is the third permanent capitol erected on Frankfort's old public square. On January 12, 1827, the legislature voted to build a new state house as two previous structures on this site had burned. The first in 1813 and the second in 1824.
The Old State House was constructed from 1827 to 1830 and was the first major work of native Kentuckian, Gideon Shryock. The architectural style of the building is significant as it represents the introduction of the Greek Revival style into Kentucky and the pioneering west.
The front elevation of the building was inspired by the classical Temple of Minerva Polias at Priene, Ionia. It is faced in polished Kentucky River marble, limestone quarried near Frankfort. Six massive Ionic columns, each four feet in diameter and 33 feet high, adorn the building's facade.
The front door opens into a spacious vestibule leading to the central rotunda that features an exceptional self-supporting marble staircase, one of the most distinguishing features of the building. As it rises, it splits to become a double circular stair. The windows of the cupola provide a tremendous volume of light to illuminate the rotunda inside.
From the second floor lobby, fan-lighted doors enter four rooms, including the House and Senate chambers. The Senate is furnished in 1830's reproduction desks and chairs based on descriptions found in the Senate Journal of 1830. The House of Representatives is furnished mostly in reproduction desks and chairs used just prior to the Civil War through 1909. Both chambers have some original furnishings, including 1840's chandeliers and hand-blown window panes.
The political history of Kentucky was enacted for nearly 80 years at the Old State House. Heard within were the oratory of distinguished Kentuckians such as Henry Clay, Isaac Shelby and Thomas Metcalfe. Today, the history of Kentucky is preserved at the Old State Capitol. Since 1920, it has been the home of the Kentucky Historical Society, whose current offices are located in the Thomas D. Clark History Center for Kentucky History.
In 1990, the legislature appropriated funds to the Finance and Administration cabinet to conduct some much needed restoration and maintenance at the Old State House. The period for interpretation selected was 1854.
The building is a National Historic Landmark.
For scheduling or tour information contact KHStours@ky.gov or (502) 564-1792 ext. 4424.
The Old State Capitol is located at:
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Please call the following number for more information:
Open: All visitors must check in at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History for tours of the Old State Capitol. Hours are seasonal and subject to change, please call (502)564-1792 or see http://history.ky.gov/portfolio/old-state-capitol/ for more information.
On-Site Parking: Parking is available in the Center for Kentucky History Museum parking lot (at intersection of Ann Street and Broadway) or on street.
Wheelchair Access: yes
Style of Architecture: Greek Revival Style