Wisconsin State Capitol

Capitol Sq., Madison, Wisconsin

The only granite-domed capitol in the United States


The Dome

It's not a coincidence that it resembles the US Capitol Dome, nor that it is four inches shorter than the US Capitol Dome.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in August 2017



Street Views 


The Wisconsin State Capitol is nationally significant as an excellent example of Renaissance Revival architecture, as interpreted through American Beaux-Arts sensibilities. Reflecting the aesthetic of an era spanning from the late nineteenth into the early twentieth century, the building is a premier example of the American Beaux-Arts and also represents a national movement to construct monumental state capitols patterned after the National Capitol in Washington. As with the best examples of governmental buildings, the vocabulary of form was derived from buildings of the Renaissance and Baroque periods of European architecture, yet the classically derived iconography of the Wisconsin State Capitol has been given a regional theme. Classical wreaths and garlands of oak leaves provide a prominent motif in the corridors and a celebration of the bounty of mining, agriculture and Wisconsin's waterways is depicted in the murals and sculptural program. The Capitol is a seminal and highly intact example of the architectural values that underpin the American Beaux-Arts tradition. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, January 3, 2001


Written by J.R. Manning

There is lots of statuary in the capitol but two statues are outstanding and sources of pride for Wisconsinites.

"Forward" was sculpted by Jean Pond Miner for the Wisconsin pavilion of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The statue takes its title from the State of Wisconsin motto. Miner was from Menasha but grew up in Madison. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and under the tutelage of Lorado Taft she changed her focus from portraiture to sculpture.

After the close of the exposition, in 1895 "Forward" was moved to Madison where it went on display at the east entrance of the capitol. The capitol burned in 1904 and in 1916, "Forward" moved to the north entrance of the new capitol where it remained until 1995. 100 years of exposure to Wisconsin weather had taken its toll. Despite conservation efforts, it was decided the best place for the statue was indoors. (It's located in the Wisconsin Historical Society building.)

A replica was placed at the end of State Street in 1996. The gilded statue on the top of the capitol dome is named "Wisconsin" and is a different statue.

"Wisconsin" was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the artist who sculpted Abraham Lincoln for the the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin is a woman extending her right hand, much as "Forward" does. She holds a globe in her left hand with an eagle perched on the globe. I cannot confirm it, but I suspect the eagle is Old Abe perched on the globe. Her helmet is adorned with a badger. The 15'5" tall statue weighs in at 3 tons and stands at the peak of the capitol dome. "Wisconsin" faces Lake Monona and although no one entrance of the capitol is supposed to be the main entrance, well, the one below Wisconsin's gaze certainly appears to be the one where the governor comes and goes.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1970
Reference number
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Art; Politics/Government; Architecture; Invention
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Capitol; Government office
Current functions
Library; Capitol; Government office
Period of significance
Significant years
1906; 1917
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing structures: 1

Update Log 

  • January 31, 2018: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • September 2, 2017: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • September 2, 2017: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status and Added Photos

Related landmarks