Return to Audio Tour Page
Welcome to the 2nd floor Rotunda. Standing at the railing, looking down towards the first floor is a breathtaking view of the grand staircase that was added in 1902. The name “Grand” refers to its wide design. Looking up, gives you a closer view of the lovely art glass dome. Some of the original glass pieces are on display in the nearby exhibit case.
Also in the exhibit case is the story about the “Save the Old Capitol” campaign. Started by Secretary of State, Bruce Smathers in the 1970s, it was eventually successful in preserving this Capitol. Two other display panels tell stories about the building itself and its remodelings, restorations and additions over the years. For instance, in 1902 architect Frank Milburn added metal reliefs depicting the State Seal above the east and west porches, but Milburn and Governor William Jennings disagreed over whether to paint the scenes in colors. Jennings preferred to paint them in color, while Milburn insisted on the same color as the exterior and Jennings finally agreed. Later, the seals were painted in color, but during the restoration returned to Milburn’s original scheme.
Before you leave this area, please look out the windows opposite the grand staircase. Apalachee Parkway, which runs directly east from the Capitol, is one of the oldest roads in the United States dating back to the 1600s and the Spanish mission road that led to St. Augustine. During building construction on the far hill in the 1980s, evidence of Desoto’s 1539 winter encampment was found making this area one of the first European sites in North America. Directly below you on the east porch, the majority of Florida’s Governors have taken the oath of office. While the porch itself was rebuilt during the restoration in the 1980s, the granite stone steps are from the original 1902 exterior staircase. The grounds around the Capitol were designated “Capitol Square” on the earliest Tallahassee maps. It has been the site of many inaugurations and political events. The strangest inauguration was probably the one in 1876 when the election results were announced only two hours before the scheduled ceremonies.
An interesting piece of trivia is that the coldest temperature ever recorded in the State of Florida happened on this spot on February 13, 1899. It was two degrees below zero.