Overview of Geographic and Historical Data
The “East of the Mississippi River” region in the United States is home to 26 of the nation’s 50 state capitols. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. This group of states makes up the South East and East Coast regions, as well as the Mid-Atlantic. Additionally, some portions of states that are mostly in the West, such as Oklahoma and Kansas, also lie within this region.
State capitols in this region were amongst the first to be established within the United States, with the first two being Richmond, Virginia (1780) and Annapolis, Maryland (1783). The state of Virginia set off a trend in the region, establishing further major cities such as Raleigh, North Carolina (1792) and Saint Paul, Minnesota (1798) as capitols. The states of Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee followed in the footsteps of Virginia and subsequently created their own capitals shortly afterwards.
The capitals in these states experienced significant shifts in their populations throughout the nineteenth century.
For example, Richmond, Virginia experienced a population surge in the 1850s, when it shifted its position as the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. Similarly, the Tennessee state capital, Nashville, grew rapidly in the 1840s, when it shifted its focus from agriculture to manufacturing and other industries. Moreover, Lincoln, Nebraska (1867), Montgomery, Alabama (1846), and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1825) all experienced sharp increases in their populations as they became state capitals.
Variation in Architectural Styles
The architectural styles of these capitals vary significantly from state to state. Whereas capitals in the southern states, such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, often feature stately Greek revival and French creole-style buildings, capitals in the northern states, such as Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, tend to reflect the colonial style of architecture.
The capitol buildings in this region were generally designed and constructed by prominent architects of the time. The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C., for example, was designed by Thomas U. Walter and Charles Bulfinch in the 1830s and 1840s. Similarly, the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis was designed by the firm of Friend & Buffington in the late 1880s.
Narratives Connected to the Ar chitectural Design
The architectural design of these state capitols often reflects the stories and histories of the regions they represent.
For example, the architecture of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, designed by Elijah E. Myers and constructed beginning in 1888, blends the style of a Greek revival statehouse with prominent features of the Gothic Revival, French Second Empire, and Neoclassical styles. These styles were chosen in order to represent the diverse population and history of the state, including Anglo, Spanish, and Mexican influences.
Similarly, the South Carolina State House in Columbia, designed by architect Joseph Emmitt, was constructed in the late 1800s and features a domed rotunda, which is said to reflect the state’s outcome in the Civil War and the progression from a Confederate state to a Union state.
Prominent Political Figures Associated with the State Capitols
Many prominent political figures, both past and present, are connected to the state capitols in the East of the Mississippi River region.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky and served as a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. Each of these cities is now the state capital of each of those states, respectively.
More recent political figures associated with the state capitols include former governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, and New York State Governor, Mario Cuomo. Both of these governors served in their respective states, and their leadership and legacies continue to be felt today.
Attractions for Tourists and Visitors
The state capitols east of the Mississippi River are popular tourist attractions, and many of the capitals have special dedicated tours, museums, and monuments.
For example, the Indiana State Museum and Capitol is a popular attraction that features an underground tour, a historically-themed interpretive center, and an outdoor plaza. Additionally, the Ohio Statehouse is home to the National Civil War Museum and a guided tour of the Capitol Square.
The East of the Mississippi state capitols are also home to a variety of outdoor activities and special events. For example, the Louisiana State Capitol hosts a Christmas lighting ceremony every December, and the Alabama State Capitol also hosts a variety of holiday events throughout the year.
The Role of the Governor and State Legislators
The state capitols are the physical representation of the states and their governments. The governor of each state serves as the state’s chief executive, serving as the leader of the executive branch of the state and presiding over the state’s legislative branch.
The state capitols are also the physical meeting places for the various state legislators, who are responsible for passing legislation and passing resolutions in order to ensure the laws of the state are followed.
Additionally, the capitols are often the locations of important political events, such as state of the state addresses and special sessions. These events are often attended by high-ranking governmental officials, as well as officials from other states.
Role of the State Capitols in National Politics
The state capitols in the East of the Mississippi region are important political centers, both nationally and in the respective states.
On a national level, the state capitols can be a key battleground in presidential elections, as the states in this region are often considered to be battleground states.
Additionally, the state capitols often serve as meeting places for various inter-state organizations. For instance, the Southern Governors Association (SGA) meets annually in different state capitols in the region.
The SGA is composed of governors from 14 states in the region with common goals and objectives, such as promoting economic development, increasing educational opportunities, and advocating for sound environmental policies.
Economic Impact of the State Capitols
The state capitols are important economic centers for their respective states and for the region as a whole.
For instance, the metropolitan areas in this region often experience economic growth as a result of their respective state capitols.
Additionally, the state capitols often provide state and federal funding for various local projects, such as infrastructure and job creation. This type of funding often helps to spur further economic growth in the region.
The state capitols in the region are also important sources of tourism revenue. For example, the Tennessee State Capitol attracts thousands of visitors annually, providing a significant boost to the state’s tourism industry.
Additionally, the Capitol Hill area in Washington, D.C. draws millions of tourists to the region every year. This influx of visitors provides a significant economic boost for the capital city, producing jobs and other economic benefits.
Political Significance of the State Capitols
The state capitols provide the physical presence of the government in their respective states, and the buildings are often symbols of the values and beliefs that the state seeks to uphold.
Additionally, the state capitols in the region serve as locations for important political events and meetings. In this way, the state capitols are important gathering places for political leaders from both the state and national level.
The state capitols also provide an opportunity for citizens to learn more about the history and government of their respective states. The buildings are often surrounded by monuments, artworks, and other symbolic items that help to highlight the state’s history and culture.
Finally, the state capitols in the region are also important symbols of democracy and the rule of law. As such, they serve as reminders of the significance of the United States Constitution and the rights of the people to choose their leaders and shape their countries future.