The Texas Capitol is an extraordinaryexample of late 19th century public architecture and is widelyrecognized as one of the nation's most distinguished state capitols. Itwas placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 anddesignated a National Historic Landmark in 1986 for its "significantcontribution to American history."
Sited on one of Austin's highest points, the Capitol anchors thenorthern periphery of the downtown commercial district and commands asweeping view towards the Colorado River from its southern façade. Themain campus of The University of Texas at Austin is situated fourblocks to the north. Wonderful views of the Capitol's dome from manyvantage points throughout the Austin area are protected fromobscuration by state law.
Completed in 1888 as the winning design from a national competition,the Capitol's style is Renaissance Revival, based on the architectureof 15th-century Italy and characterized by classical orders, roundarches and symmetrical composition. The structural exterior is "sunsetred" granite, quarried just 50 miles from the site. Additionalstructural support is provided by masonry walls and cast iron columnsand beams. The foundation is limestone. Texas paid for the constructionnot in dollars, but in land: some three million acres in the TexasPanhandle that would later become the famous XIT Ranch.
An extraordinary edifice by any measure, the 1888 Texas Capitol is thelargest in gross square footage of all state capitols and is second intotal size only to the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. Likeseveral other state capitols, the 1888 Texas Capitol surpasses theNational Capitol in height, rising almost 15 feet above its Washingtoncounterpart.
In 1993, the $75 million underground Capitol Extension was completed tothe north, doubling the square footage available to Capitol occupantsand providing much improved functionality. In 1995, a comprehensiveinterior and exterior restoration of the original building wascompleted at a cost of approximately $98 million. Finally, in 1997, thepark-like grounds surrounding the Capitol were given a much needed $8million renovation and restoration.