The 7 Most Picturesque ‘Swing State’ Capitols

Iowa State Capitol

In the 2016 presidential election, we’ve already heard lots of buzz about the candidates wooing voters in “swing states” — the states where the balloting easily could swing toward the Democratic or Republican challenger.

While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump see eye-to-eye on pretty much nothing, they probably could agree that the state capitols in at least some of the swing states are stunning. In our view, that’s a nonpartisan issue — one that isn’t up for debate.

Iowa State Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol is the only five-domed state capitol in the U.S.
Photo: RDG Planning & Design

Casting aside party politics, we took a look at state capitols in this year’s swing states and decided which ones really caught our attention aesthetically. Here are the state capitols that earned our votes for the 7 Most Picturesque “Swing State” Capitols. You’ll notice that the capitols in four swing states — Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio — didn’t make our ranking, as those buildings failed to win us over.

Note to Donald Trump: Although you might dispute the results, there’s no rigged election here.

1. Iowa State Capitol
Des Moines, IA

Iowa State Capitol

Photo: Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau

Why We Like It: The Iowa State Capitol stands as a testament to grandeur. Its 23-karat golden dome, flanked by four smaller domes, can be seen for miles. According to a state government website, the “modified and refined Renaissance style” of the Capitol “gives the impression of strength and dignity combined with utility.” Among its many outstanding design features, the State of Iowa Official Register for 1945-46 cites the Capitol’s “elaborate columns and handsomely designed cornices and capitals.” Architects John C. Cochrane and A.H. Piquenard designed the building, whose exterior is made of sandstone and limestone; the Capitol, built from 1871 to 1886, is the only five-domed capitol in the U.S.

2. Pennsylvania State Capitol
Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Photo: Expedia

Why We Like It: At the 1906 dedication of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, President Theodore Roosevelt declared: “This is the handsomest building I ever saw.” More than a century later, we think the Capitol’s handsomeness has stood the test of time. According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s website about the Capitol, the building was designed in the American Renaissance style by Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston. “The Capitol’s centerpiece is a spectacular 272-foot, 52 million-pound dome inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,” the General Assembly’s site says.

3. Colorado State Capitol
Denver, CO

Colorado State Capitol

Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

Why We Like It: Like its counterpart in Iowa, the Colorado State Capitol is capped by a gleaming golden dome that adds a dramatic element to the skyline. The Neoclassical building, designed by architect Elijah E. Myers, is “intentionally reminiscent” of the U.S. Capitol. Myers also designed the state capitols of Michigan and Texas. Colorado’s Capitol, constructed of Colorado white granite, opened in 1894.

4. Wisconsin State Capitol
Madison, WI

Wisconsin State Capitol

Photo: WESLI

Why We Like It: Rather than putting it into our own words, we’re going to let do the talking: “Rising between the picturesque waters of Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, the majestic granite structure of Wisconsin’s Capitol building glows like a beacon, accenting the Madison skyline.” Atop the Capitol dome is “Wisconsin,” a gilded bronze statue created by acclaimed sculptor Daniel Chester French. Beaux-Arts architect George B. Post, the design guru behind the New York Stock Exchange, and his two sons designed the granite-faced Capitol, which was built between 1906 and 1917. It’s the only state capitol located on an isthmus.

5. Michigan State Capitol
Lansing, MI

Michigan State Capitol

Photo: Listen Up, Lansing

Why We Like It: The Michigan State Capitol is a study in symmetry. The Neoclassical building, designed by renowned architect Elijah E. Myers, “is flanked by the balanced wings of the House and the Senate,” according to a State of Michigan website. The website goes on to say that a “distinctive” and “graceful” dome made of cast iron “floats” about the Capitol, which was completed in 1878. Myers’ design of the Michigan State Capitol “established the domed capitol as a national symbol — an icon of American democracy,” according to a 1992 report from the Michigan Legislature.

6. New Hampshire State House
Concord, NH

New Hampshire State House

Photo: Flickr/C Hanchey

Why We Like It: The most striking features of the state capitol, known as the New Hampshire State House, are the large golden dome and the two-story portico and balcony at the main entrance. The building, made mostly of locally quarried granite blocks, was designed by architect Stuart J. Park in the Greek Revival style. Construction was completed in 1819. A rectangular park filled with trees and statues greets people coming into the Capitol’s front entrance.

7. Virginia State Capitol
Richmond, VA

Virginia State Capitol

Photo: Flickr/Doug Kerr

Why We Like It: Thomas Jefferson — yes, that Thomas Jefferson — and Charles-Louis Clérisseau patterned the Virginia State Capitol after the Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple in Nîmes, France, according to a Capitol visitors’ guide. The Capitol was the first Roman Revival building built in the U.S. and the first public building in the U.S. designed to look like a classic temple, the National Park Service says. Since its completion in 1788, the Virginia State Capitol has been a model for other capitols, as well as courthouses, municipal buildings, churches and homes.

Top photo: Flickr/Jason Mrachina


John Egan

John Egan is the former editor in chief of Now, he is a freelance writer extraordinaire. He lives in Austin, Texas.