Playing “I Spy” at the Vermont State Capitol

| | |

Vermont, the 14th state in the union, chose Montpelier as the state capital because of its central location and accessibility to the nearby Winooski River. The first State House, a traditional wooden meetinghouse, was open from 1808-1835, and then moved and expanded to a nearby, larger space from 1836-1856, until a fire destroyed most of the State House in January of 1857. The third, and current, State House was completed in 1859, built in an Italian Renaissance revival style, with all features made from masonry and cast iron; only the dome (57 feet high and covered in gold leaf) is made of wood. (Even the doors and staircase railing were painted to look like mahogany!)

The Vermont Senate Chamber, which has 30 members, is the oldest senate chamber in America that is still actively used and still has all of the original furniture and lighting from 1859 (except for two filing cabinets and a computer). The 150 member House Chamber is the largest room in the State House. Vermont legislators have no private offices at the State House; they conduct business at their chamber desks or in groups in large committee rooms on the first floor. And unlike most state Capitols, there is no rotunda inside the Vermont State House, the dome is an exterior ornament. 

Hubbard Park, located behind the State House, is home to walking trails, a fitness trail, an interpretive trail, a 54 foot stone tower, and picnic shelters. The State House complex welcomes visitors all year and encourages exploration of its grounds.

Travel Tips:

  • The State House allows self guided tours Monday through Friday 8am-4pm, using the physical guide and audio tour (using the free wands and QR Code placards in major rooms and galleries). Free, guided tours are available from mid June through October Monday through Saturday- check hours and contact information here
  • There is metered parking available on the side streets in the Capitol District and in downtown Montpelier; more information on parking here.
  • On site dining options include a cafeteria serving breakfast and lunch and the Capitol Food Court offers grill, sandwich, soup, and salad items. A good index on dining options in Montpelier can be found here.
  • Plan on 75 minutes for a full tour

Playing “I Spy” at the Vermont State House:

Find the following items while on the tour:

  1. The statue of Ethan Allen on the front portico.
  2. The bust of Abraham Lincoln (sculpted by Larkin Mead, who also sculpted the dome).
  3. Fossils in the black marble tiles made from Isle La Motte on Lake Champlain on the floor of the first floor lobby.
  4. Replicas of the original 1850s gas lit chandeliers- look for the keys on each arm of the chandelier that would turn on the gas and burner with a turn in one direction and extinguish the burner when turned in the other direction. 
  5. Portraits of the two Vermont born US Presidents: Calvin Coolidge (1920s) and Chester A. Arthur (1880s)
  6. The coat of arms on the rostrum (podium) in the Senate Chamber.
  7. The theme of water with figurines of Neptune, seahorses, and water lilies in the original gas chandelier hanging in the Senate Chamber.
  8. The 30 Senate desks in the Senate Chamber (see who has a footrest under their desk).  
  1. The portrait (100 inches tall!) of George Washington (a replica of Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington that hangs in Rhode Island’s Capitol) that hangs above the Speaker’s rostrum in the House Chamber.
  2. The lotus blossom petals on the ceiling of the House Chamber, each weighing 500 pounds.
  3. The 1,000 pound gas (non electrified) chandelier in the House Chamber featuring the Vermont Coat of Arms and Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave. It is the largest gas fixture in the State House.
  4. The 30 chairs that flank the House Speaker’s desk (reserved for the 30 senators for when they are invited for a joint session of the Senate and House) in the House Chamber.
  5. The double sided desk in the Governor’s Office
  6. The carved stag head on top of the governor’s Constitution Chair, carved from wood from the USS Constitution (see our post on the USS Constitution here)., in the Governor’s Office.
  7.  The four shields on the corners of the 20 foot by 10 foot painting depicting the First Vermont Brigade at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864 in the Cedar Creek Room. (it’s pretty hard to miss!) The room is now used for receptions and press gatherings. 
  8. The stained glass illustrations on the ceiling of the Cedar Creek Room, which were painstakingly restored piece by piece after they were found in the attic in 1990. The illustrations depict the allegorical figure of Agriculture and the Vermont Coat of Arms. 

Bonus: Spend time reading the history and viewing some of the artifacts in the displays that showcase topics such as Women in the State House, Vermont in the Civil War, the State House in the Civil War, and the Abenaki Tribe of Vermont. 

Looking for other adventures in Vermont? Check out our posts featuring the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, the ECHO Leahy Science Center, Ben & Jerry’s Factory, and our full Burlington City Guide

Looking for more State Capitol tours? Check out our adventures in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter

Similar Posts

5 Comments

  1. I like your angle of “I Spy” at the Vermont State House. I’m imagining using this list and checking them off one by one. Very curated list — like the double sided desk, lotus blossom petals etc.

  2. I’m heading to Vermont soon and may have to make my husband go on this scavenger hunt. Sound way more engaging than just wandering around the building

  3. I LOVE the “I Spy” series. It is great for kiddos. I wish my kid was still young enough to want to play this game on our travels. This is so great for families!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *