North Carolina General Assembly - The Legislative Building

NC Legislative Building

NC Legislative Building

The need for larger quarters for legislators and their respective staffs, and the growth of services provided by the legislative branch of government led the General Assembly of 1959 to appropriate funds for the formation of a Building Commission for the construction of a new building for the Legislature. A statute creating such a commission was ratified on June 12, 1959. It was to "consist of two persons who have served in the State Senate, appointed by the President of the Senate; two persons who have served in the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and three persons appointed by the Governor."

Lieutenant Governor Luther E. Barnhardt, President of the Senate, appointed Archie K. Davis and Robert F. Morgan, who was elected Vice-Chairman of the Commission; Speaker of the House Addison Hewlett appointed B. I. Satterfield and Thomas J. White, who was elected Chairman of the Commission; and Governor Luther Hodges appointed A. E. Finley, Edwin Gill, and Oliver R. Rowe. In addition to these members, Paul A. Johnston, Director of the Department of Administration, was elected Executive Secretary. The Commission elected Frank B.Turner, State Property Officer as Executive Secretary upon the resignation of Mr. Johnson.

The Commission selected Edward Durell Stone of New York with John S. Holloway and Ralph B. Reeves, Jr., Associated as the architectural consultants.

After a thorough study by the Commission, a site for construction was selected—a 5-1/2 acre area one block north of the Capitol. This site, encompassing two blocks, is bounded by Jones, Salisbury, Lane and Wilmington Streets. A section of Halifax Street between Jones and Lane was closed and made a part of the new site.

Bids on the new building were received in December, 1960 and constrution began early the following year. The 1961 General Assembly appropriated an additional $1 million for furnishings and equipment. This brought the total appropriation to $5.5 million or $1.24 for each citizen of North Carolina. (This figure based on the 1960 census.)

One of the consulting architects wrote the following description of the new building:

"The State Legislative Building, though not an imitation of historic classical styles, is classical in character. Rising from a 340 foot wide podium of North Carolina granite, the building proper is 242 feet square. The walls and the columns are of Vermont marble, the latter forming a colonnade encompassing the building and reaching 24 feet from the podium to the roof of the second floor.

"Inset in the south podium floor, at the main entrance, is a 28 foot diameter terrazzo mosaic of the Great Seal of the State. From the first floor main entrance (at Jones Street) the carpeted 22 foot wide main stair extends directly to the third floor and the public galleries of the Senate and House, the auditorium, the display area, and the roof gardens.

"The four garden courts are located at the corners of the building. These courts contain tropical plants, and three have pools, fountains, and hanging planters. The main floor areas of the courts are located in the first floor, and messanines overlook the courts from the second floor. The skylights which provide natural lighting are located within the roof gardens overhead. The courts provide access to committee rooms in the first floor, the legislative chambers in the second floor, and to members' offices in both floors.

"The Senate and House chambers, each 5,180 square feet in area, occupy the east and west wings of the second floor. Following the traditional relationship of the two chambers in the Capitol, the two spaces are divided by the rotunda; and when the main brass doors are open, the two presiding officers face one another. Each pair of brass doors weigh 1,500 pounds.

"The five pyramidal roofs covering the Senate and House chambers, the auditorium, the main stair, and the rotunda are sheathed with copper, as is the Capitol. The pyramidal shape of the roofs is visible in the pointed ceilings inside. The structural ribs form a coffered ceiling; and inside the coffered patterns, concentric patterns are outlined in gold. In each chamber, the distance from the floor to the peak of the ceiling is 45 feet.

"Chandeliers in the chambers and main stair are 8 feet in diameter and weigh 625 pounds each. The 12 foot diameter chandelier of the rotunda, like the others, is of brass, but its weight is 750 pounds.

"Because of the interior environment, the garden courts and rotunda have tropical plants and trees. Outside, however, the shrubs and trees are of an indigenous type. Among the trees in the gounds, on the roof areas are sugar maples, dogwoods, crabapples, magnolias, crepe myrtles, and pines.

"Throughout the building, the same color scheme is maintained: Walnut, white, gold and red, with green foliage. In general, all wood is American walnut, metal is brass or other gold colored material, carpets are red, and upholstery is gold or black.

"The enclosed area consists of 206,000 square feet of floor area with a volume of 3,210,000 cubic feet. Heating equipment provides over 7,000,000 B.T.U. per hour; and the cooling equipment has a capaciy of 620 tons. For lighting, motors, and other electircal equipment, the building has a connected service load of over 2,000,000 watts."

Immediately above comes from Pages 23-24 of the 1979 North Carolina Manual, with minor edits.

© 2016 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved