Last week, we visited Kaskaskia, home of the “Liberty Bell of the West” and site of the first Illinois state capital. Today, we visited the second Illinois state capital (and fourth Capitol building), the Vandalia State House, which was built in only 89 days in 1836. That town boasts the oldest existing capitol building in the state (even though that building was the third Capitol building in Vandalia, and was only the seat of state government for a few short years after it was built).
There are three floors to the old Capitol building. The first floor had offices for the Secretary of State, the Illinois Supreme Court, the Treasurer, and the Auditor. (Interestingly, the governor was given no office in this building.) Among the notable things that happened on this floor were the chartering of the city of Chicago, and the awarding of Abraham Lincoln’s law degree.
The second floor was home to the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. Lincoln and Stephen Douglas both spoke from this floor, where they each earned $4 a day as representatives. This is also the place from which Lincoln made his first public comment regarding slavery.
The third floor, which is not accessible to the public, was home to the galleries, from which the constituents could watch the proceedings in the House and Senate.
As far as I understand, the building was renovated pretty extensively after it ceased being the Capitol building…originally, it was a simple red brick structure; the Greek influence was added for the building’s tenure as a courthouse.
This was another interesting piece of Illinois history. Next up…Springfield!