History of the Capitol

The New Capitol is the fourth building to serve as Florida's capitol building. The first Capitol was a log cabin built in 1824with the establishment of Tallahassee as territorial capital. In1826, a two-story frame structure replaced the first Capitol. The third Capitol was begun in 1839 and completed by 1845. This Capitol was expanded four times. Twice there has been debate to relocate the Capitol. In 1900, relocation was actually placed on the ballot, but it was voted down.

In 1969, the Governor and the Cabinet approved the plans for a New Capitol when it was determined the Old Capitol could no longer accommodate the state government and the legislators. Debate on relocation resurfaced in the early 1970's. Relocation never made it to the ballot, but it was a passionate debate nonetheless. A plaque affixed to the north wall facing the main elevators symbolizes the struggle for the New Capitol. The plaque reads: "This plaque is dedicated to Senator Lee Wissenborn whose valiant effort to move the Capitol to Orlando was the prime motivation for the construction of this building." The architects and engineers for this project were Edward Durell Stone of New York and the firm of Reynolds, Smith and Hills of Jacksonville. Instead of the traditional brick and column, a design reflective of modern Florida was chosen. The Capitol complex is done in "New Classicism" style.

The complex consists of three structures - a 22-story high-rise tower with two Legislative office buildings. These buildings, the House Office Building on the north side and the Senate Office Building on the south, are connected by skywalks to New Capitol. A third skywalk connects the Capitol to the Knott Building. The tower design of the New Capitol is not unique. Three other state Capitols use the tower design (Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota). Construction of the New Capitol began on November 8, 1973 and was declared finished on August 19, 1977. To insure that there would no "mortgage" on this new building, the $43,070,741 price tag was paid before the first cornerstone was laid. An additional $1,957,338 was committed to landscaping the west front area. This area is known as Waller Park. It was named after Judge Curtis L. Walter of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Upon the New Capitol's completion, restoration on the "Old" Capitol was begun. The "Old" or "Historic" Capitol was refurbished to the way it looked in 1902. Herschel Shepard, a restoration architect, was quoted as saying "the Old Capitol will be like a jewel worn by the New." The Old Capitol now serves as a museum called "the Florida Center for Political History and Governance".