Louise Speaks: Being that we live in Arizona, I thought it would be interesting to go to ALL the county seats in the state. That way we could say we truly have toured and blogged about the entire state of Arizona. There are currently 15 counties in Arizona, and we are now more than half way done.
We live in the Phoenix area when it is too cold in Prescott but don’t very often go to the downtown government district. Phoenix is the state capital and also the county seat of Maricopa County. The county seat is represented by the State Capital Building rather than a courthouse like the other counties. Inside the Capital Building is a museum that focuses on the evolution of Arizona from Territory to State and how Arizonans continue to affect their state through civic engagement. You can enter the Historic House Chamber where the Arizona Constitution was written and sit at the very desk where it was signed. There is also a room dedicated to the 140 changes in the Arizona Constitution over 100 years of statehood. The Governor’s office is on the second floor and has a wax figure of Arizona’s First State Governor.
The building was created as part of an effort to demonstrate that the Arizona Territory was ready for statehood. A design contest was won and the original plan called for the Capitol to be much larger, with a more prominent rotunda and large wings for both houses of the legislature on each side of the current building. Funding deficits meant the project had to be reduced, so the legislative wings were discarded from the plan and a small lead-alloy top substituted for the decorative dome.
Over the years many changes have been made to the Capital Building. Construction of the Capitol began in 1898, and it began operation in 1901. In 1918 and 1938, expansions were added on the west side of the building, which had the same architecture and increased the total square footage from the original 40,000 to a final 123,000. The building is topped with a wind vane visible through a skylight from within the rotunda. The Capital Building was home to the Legislature until 1960, when the current house and senate buildings were constructed, and the Governor’s Office until 1974, when the executive tower was built.
The state at that time had a plan of converting the original Capitol into a museum dedicated to Arizona’s history. After a restoration, the building was re-opened as a museum in 1981. In the 1990s, more than $3 million was spent to renovate the Capitol and rooms were restored to their original design. Again, due to budget deficits, construction was stopped on a few rooms on the third floor and they remain incomplete today. The Capitol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As a child going to school here in Arizona, one of our field trips was to the state capital building. The House of Congress and the House of Senate are two buildings on each side of the capital building. What I found most fascinating and still remember today was that there is an underground tunnel that connects the two buildings to the Capital Building and the tunnel itself was a bomb shelter. You would literally go into the House of Senate, and walk and walk and walk, and exit through the House of Congress. Unfortunately this walk is not possible today. On January 14, 2010, the Arizona State Department of Administration reported that it had sold the surrounding state buildings, the tower, the two flanking legislative buildings, and other state structures to private investors. The Old Capitol Building was not part of this transaction.
In 2010, Maricopa County had a population of 3,817,117, making it the most populous county in the state, and the fourth most populous county in the United States. It is more populous than 23 states. Phoenix is the sixth most populous city in the country.
As you know by reading previous blogs, there is much to do in Maricopa County. We still have a few more things to see in this county in order to finish the state of Arizona. One fun fact but also a shocking one, is that there are more golf courses in Arizona than there are schools and hospitals…I guess the state has priorities…lol.