Otis House

Massachusetts State House

Known for its golden dome, the Massachusetts State House is Charles Bulfinch’s most prominent work on Beacon Hill. Charles Bulfinch was a fourth-generation Bostonian. He attended Harvard College from 1778-1781, and then embarked on a two-year grand tour of Europe. Bulfinch brought back from his European travels a love of the English neoclassical style, like that preferred by Robert Adam and Sir William Chambers and the State House design is based on Chambers’ Somerset House in London, England. In 1787 Bulfinch, by then a self-taught gentleman architect, submitted his plan to the state, but it took seven years for both the design and the site to be approved. The late John Hancock’s pasture land, just below Beacon Hill’s summit, was chosen as the site for the new State House. The cornerstone was placed on July 4, 1795 by Governor Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. It was mostly because of this building’s design that in 1817 President James Monroe chose Bulfinch to complete the construction of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (which had been badly burnt during the War of 1812).

The Corinthian columns on the front portico were originally made of Maine pine, but were replaced with cast iron in 1960. The gilded dome sits a top a high central pediment, supported by brick pilasters. At the very top of the dome is a gilded pinecone, symbolic for the abundant forests that once covered Massachusetts (and now Maine). The original dome was made of wood, but in 1802 Paul Revere and Sons installed copper roofing painted gray. In 1861 the dome was gilded in 23K gold (for $2,862), and remained so only except for World War II (when it was blackened). As usage required, the State House was enlarged. Today, the State House is ten times the size of Bulfinch’s original. In 1889 the long rear extension was built. This addition alone was six times the size of the original building. The marble wings were added by 1917.

The statues in front of the State House are orator Daniel Webster, educator Horace Mann, Civil War General Joseph T. Hooker, Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer (both are religious martyrs and their statues are below the two state house wings), and the most recently added statue is John F. Kennedy (located in the west wing plaza).