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A Golden Dome In Iowa

Updated on June 22, 2012

Iowa's State Capitol Building

Iowa's capitol building has the largest gold dome of all state capitols.
Iowa's capitol building has the largest gold dome of all state capitols. | Source

Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines is a medium-sized Midwestern city with a population of just over 200,000. The metropolitan area spreads across the rolling hills of Central Iowa, straddling both sides of the Des Moines River in the process. When one travels through the area, perhaps the first things that comes to mind are the varied topography and distinct skyline, punctuating the downtown area. Another striking feature of Des Moines is that huge edifice with the large, central, gold-covered dome, which is surrounded by four lesser spires, each displaying long lines of thin gold sheathing. The glittering gold that covers and decorates the capitol roof is the real thing, for it is applied in razor thin sheets that light up the countryside on a bright, sunny day.

Des Moines Skyline

Des Moines skyline viewed from inside the capitol building.
Des Moines skyline viewed from inside the capitol building. | Source

Working with Gold Leaf

Another interesting fact about the Iowa capitol building is that all the gold used as roofing material is made from 23 karat gold. The gold is rolled out into very thin sheets called gold leaf. So thin is this protective gold layer that all the gold necessary to cover the exterior portion of the dome could be rolled up into one lump the size of a softball. However, once applied, the gold will only stand up to the elements for about 20 years. At this time the gold must be replaced, a task, which can only be carried out by highly-skilled craftsmen, specializing in the external application of gold leaf. Still, Iowa's capitol still stands tall, for it is only one of ten domed capitols left standing and among these architectural gems, this building supports the largest dome.

Interior Stairway

Visitors wishing to visit the inside of the capitol dome must do so by means of an interior stairwell.
Visitors wishing to visit the inside of the capitol dome must do so by means of an interior stairwell. | Source

Inside The Capitol Building

If you have a little extra time on your hands, you might want to walk inside this state building and check out the master craftsmanship that went to constructing the place. There is a lot to see, here and fortunately the price of admission is free. What you will encounter is what may well be one of the finest state capitols in the nation. Built between 1871 and 1886, the capitol building sits on a high hill overlooking the city. The interior walls support several large murals, numerous wall stencil designs, intricate hand-carved doorways and endless stretches of stone tile floors.

Then there is the peak of the dome, which towers 300 feet above the ground level floor. Believe it or not, guided tours are available, where visitors can climb many sets of stone stairs, which lead to a balcony, perched close to the apex of the circular ceiling. The view from here is extraordinary, but definitely not recommended for those with a fear of heights.

Interior ceiling of the Capitol Dome

Looking up at the inside of the dome.
Looking up at the inside of the dome. | Source


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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I used to work in that building... a personal assistant to the governor, in 1972-74... quite the memories... Thanks for the reminder!! ;-)

    • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

      Harry Nielsen 

      6 years ago from Durango, Colorado

      The Iowa State Capitol Building is a great place to visit...and best of all the tour is free.

    • Pamela-anne profile image


      6 years ago from Miller Lake

      What a lovely building thanks for the informative hub. take care pam.

    • eHealer profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas

      I had no idea the capital building was so beautiful. Thanks for the great photos. Beautiful hub!


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