New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe – The Land of Enchantment

New Mexico State Capitol - FrontWhile on a trip to Albuquerque, NM to see the annual Balloon Fiesta we added in an extra couple of day s to check out Santa Fe. We have been to many state capitol buildings as we have traveled the US. I have to say though that one of the most interesting we visited was the New Mexico State Capitol. It is the only round state capitol in the United States. Informally it is also known as “the Roundhouse”).  What impressed me was that it was also designed to resemble the Zia Sun Symbol when viewed from above. The capitol contains 232,346 square feet and was dedicated on December 8, 1966.

new-mexico-state-capitol-inside1The building contains four floors with a rotunda in the center of the building. It is 49 feet in diameter and 60 feet high, spanning the second, third, and fourth floors, and finished with a Travertine marble. The marble is native to New Mexico and inlaid with a turquoise and brass mosaic of the Great Seal of New Mexico. The ceiling skylight is designed to resemble an Indian basket weave, with blue and pale pink stained glass representing the sky and the earth, respectively. The flags of New Mexico’s 33 counties are on permanent display on the fourth floor balcony. They also have a ceiling skylight which is designed to resemble an Indian basket weave, with blue and pale pink stained glass representing the sky and the earth, respectively.

 According to their site the American bald eagle shielding the smaller Mexican eagle within its wings symbolizes New Mexico’s change of sovereignty in 1846. The bald eagle, which represents bravery, skill and strength, clasps three arrows in its talons. The smaller Mexican brown (or harpy) eagle grasps a snake in its beak and cactus in its talons. This portion of the seal is still the official symbol of Mexico.  It illustrates the ancient myth in which the gods ordered the Aztecs to settle where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent. The date 1912 was added to the seal when New Mexico was admitted as the forty-seventh state. The word “territory” was replaced by “state” in that year.

new-mexico-state-capitol-great-seal-2Apparently there are no official guided tours of the New Mexico State Capitol, but visitors are welcome to enjoy self-guided tours Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day through the last Saturday in August, the Capitol is also open for self-guided tours on holidays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.   We grabbed a self guided tour brochure and went on our way.


new-mexico-state-capitol-inside

We soon learned that the first floor is where the house and senate chambers are located at the New Mexico State Capitol, but are not open to the public. However we were able to view them from the second floor so that was where we started.  The house gallery seats 296 and is located on the south side of the building. The senate gallery, which seats 210, is on the north side of the building. Also located on this floor is the New Mexico’s Wall of Honor exhibit. This exhibit recognizes 14 men who have received the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. We walked around and took a few pictures then headed up to the top two floors.

The third and fourth floor were mostly  committee rooms and the offices of committee chairs,  the Capitol Art Collection, the offices of the governor, the lieutenant governor and the Legislative Council Service, as well as a display of governors’ portraits and the Governor’s Gallery. The gallery and the art collection were pretty interesting.

new-mexico-state-capitol-outsideWe had a fascinating time exploring the distinctive New Mexico State Capitol building while in Santa Fe.  I learned a lot about the history of the capitol while visiting that I had never known. The most impressive of course was the shape of the building, but I also enjoyed learning the history of the state flags through the years. I had no idea there we so many.  For more information about the capitol, please check out their website.

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