• Several Georgia raw materials, such as wood, iron ore and marble, were used in the construction of the capitol building.


    Several Georgia raw materials, such as wood, iron ore and marble, were used in the construction of the capitol building.

  • From inside the capitol rotunda, visitors can see marble busts and portraits of famous Georgians.


    From inside the capitol rotunda, visitors can see marble busts and portraits of famous Georgians.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - How familiar are you with the Georgia State Capitol'

The four-story Renaissance building in downtown Atlanta has been the seat of government for more than 120 years. Legislators convene there once a year to determine policy, meet with committees, discuss bills and vote. This year, the legislative session begins Monday.

Timothy Frilingos, museum services manager for the Georgia Capitol Museum, invites visitors of all ages to stop by the state capitol, especially while the General Assembly is meeting.

"I think everybody can gain something from visiting the capitol," he said. "Even the littlest children can begin to get an idea of what it means to live in a democracy. Just understanding that people come together to make laws, I think that can be a good impression. Then of course, everyone needs to be reminded of that."

If you want to sit in on part of the session, be sure to call in advance for times and dates. The assembly meets for 40 days, but they usually don't wrap things up until March because of breaks. A session might last from around 10 a.m. to some time after 3 p.m. weekdays, Frilingos said, but times vary and visitors don't have to stay for the entire period.

"The capitol is unique in Georgia because it's one of the few places you can see a historic building but also see it still in use for what it was made to be," he said. "It's still a living and breathing capitol. You never know who you might run into - the governor or other elected officials. During the session, it's really exciting to see representative government at work."

The capitol draws roughly half a million people through its doors every year, Frilingos said, many coming to visit the museum housed on the top floor.

First created in 1895, the museum showcases a copy of the original building plans, historical flags, artifacts from Georgia's natural history and gifts given to former state governors. Visitors can also see marble busts of former governors and portraits of famous Georgians circling the rotunda and lining the halls.

A historical landmark since 1993, the building has undergone several phases of restoration. These efforts have returned the building closer to its original colors, Victorian lighting and wood finishes, according to the capitol Web site.

"It's really one of the few remaining structures from the 19th century in Atlanta, and it's so grand a building," Frilingos said. "I think it's a good way to see maybe what Georgia's about and to realize that it is very accessible for any resident of Georgia or any visitor."

It's all free and open to the public. All you need is a photo ID.

For more information, call 404-463-4536 or visit http://sos.georgia.gov/state_capitol. The building is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with scheduled tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Quick Facts
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday with tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cost: Free

Directions: 214 State Capitol, Atlanta. Take I-75/85 north to Exit 245 (Capitol Avenue). Turn left at first traffic light, turn left onto Hank Aaron Drive. Capitol is one mile down on left.

Need more information' Call the Georgia State Capitol at 404-463-4536 or visit the Web site at http://sos.georgia.gov/state_capitol.

1883 - $1 million designated for the building of a new capitol to house the Georgia General Assembly.

1884 - Construction begins on the design of Frank Burnham and Willoughby Endbrooke, architects from Chicago. Plans included a Renaissance design and a metal capitol dome painted to look like the rest of the building.

1889 - Building completed. $118.43 remains from the original million budgeted for the construction.

1891 - Geological collection opens on fourth floor of the capitol, marking the start of the Georgia Capitol Museum.

1907 - Statue of former Gov. John Brown Gordon becomes the first sculpture placed on capitol grounds. It is the only equestrian statue in Atlanta.

19591 - Dahlonega, Ga., site of the first U.S. gold rush, donates 43 ounces of 23-carat gold for the dome.

1962 - Leroy Johnson, the first African-American in the assembly in more than 50 years, removes most of the color lines, such as separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites, from the capitol.

1965 - The statue on top of the dome, known as Miss Freedom, is struck by lightning. A helicopter is used to replace her broken flame.

1995 - A piece of the ceiling falls into a legislator's office, sparking a call for renovations of the capitol.

2001 - A new Georgia Capitol Museum opens on the fourth floor featuring exhibits about the capitol building and the state government. A Hall of Valor, with a collection of historic flags, is added to the first floor.

2006 - Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King becomes the first African-American and the first woman to be lain in state in the capitol.

It figures:

6 Corinthian columns supporting the faAfASade
237 feet from the ground to the top of the rotunda
43 ounces of gold originally used to gild the capitol
3 times the dome has been gilded
236 members of the Georgia General Assembly
21 people who have lain in state, including Jefferson Davis and Lester Maddox
40 days the assembly meets

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16