Illinois State Capitol
101 S. Second St.
Illinois boasts a stunning State Capitol, and in recent years the legislative chambers and multifloor west wing were magnificently restored. It is well worth visiting this National Historic Landmark. Construction began on the sixth and current Illinois Capitol in 1868 after officials determined that more space was needed for government business. The building took 20 years to complete and cost more than $4.5 million. The first legislative session in the new Capitol was held in 1877, but the structure wasn’t finished for another decade. Designed in the shape of a Latin cross and capped by a 361-foot-high dome, the building stands 74 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol.
In addition to watching Illinois politicians from the balcony-level seating area, visitors can view the awe-inspiring artwork, statues and paintings inside the limestone Italian Renaissance Revival building. Murals, a variety of marbles and a unique architectural design add to the elegance and grace of Illinois’ center of government.
Renovation of the legislative chambers, hearing rooms and west wing involved detailed historical research and highly skilled craftsmanship to restore art glass, ornamental plaster, decorative stencils, woodwork, chandeliers, monumental paintings, the grand staircase, and other features. In 2015 the west wing restoration received an Honor Award for Interior Architecture from the American Institute of Architects. Modern technologies were integrated into the period designs, and the west wing restoration achieved LEED Gold certification for new construction and major renovation.
Guided tours are the best way to learn more about the historic building, Illinois state government and the history of Illinois represented by statues, murals, portraits, paintings and other artwork. Free tours are given every half-hour on weekdays and start on the first floor, north wing. Visitors must remain with the tour guide on weekends, so go during the week if you want to explore. Enter through the east door. Visitors must go through metal detectors. Park for free at the Capitol Complex Visitors Center, 425 S. College St.
Open many holidays, but call ahead first.
Illinois Governor’s Mansion
410 E. Jackson St.
Built in 1855, the Illinois Governor’s Mansion is one of the oldest and most historic governor’s mansions in the U.S. The Mansion reopened in July 2018 after a spectacular, privately funded three-year renovation. It is now fully ADA accessible and has professionally trained docents for guided tours, as well as expanded programming and an all-new visitor center. Rooms are dedicated specifically to historic events, including the Columbian Exposition and past Illinois governors.
There is also a dedicated space for art exhibits, and the inaugural exhibition, “Art in Illinois,” brings together over 80 works of art from Illinois-based artists, some of which are privately owned pieces on loan.