I Made My Own “Hill Visit”…to the Utah State Capitol Building

In 2010, I helped my four friends in the Government Relations department track Utah State Senator Daniel Liljenquist’s efforts to reform to Utah’s public-sector pension plan, which included moving new hires from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution plan, eliminating pensions for legislators and doing away with double-dipping.  So, while I was in Salt Lake City, I thought I’d make my own “Hill Visit” to the place where those proposed reforms became law — the Utah State Capitol Building. 

The neighborhood surrounding the Capitol includes the Marmalade District, so called because its streets were named for the fruit-bearing plants and trees that early residents brought and planted there. As we walked up steep Main Street, we admired a variety of architectural styles. For example, the Alfred McCune Home at 200 North Main Street was intended to be a bungalow, but ended up being a magnificent Gothic/East Asian style home that was completed in 1901. 

Begun in 1913 and completed in 1915, the building was designed by Richard K.A. Kletting, architect for the original Saltair Pavilion, a family resort and amusement park located on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake.

Here’s a photo from my Grandpa’s circa-1928 visit to Saltair.

And here’s another photo from Grandpa’s Saltair visit.  He’s the one floating with his hands behind his head, in the upper left corner of this group of Great Salt Lake bathers.

The Utah State Capitol building overlooks downtown Salt Lake City from the north.  It is constructed of Utah granite in the Renaissance Revival style.

The main floor features a mural painting in the interior of the building’s dome that includes seagulls flying among clouds. This choice is symbolic for two reasons: the California gull is Utah’s official state bird; and it also represents the importance of seagulls in Utah’s history. Seagulls are credited with saving the Mormon pioneers’ first harvest in Utah because, according to Mormon folklore, they ate thousands of katydids that were devouring the pioneers’ crops. The dome also includes a cyclorama painting of eight scenes from Utah’s history, including the driving of the Golden Spike that joined the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States.

The arches of the done are painted with scenes from Utah’s history, including exploration, fur trapping, and the arrival of the Mormon pioneers. Statues representing Science and Technology, Land and Community, Immigration and Settlement, and Arts and Education sit in niches at the bottom of rotunda’s four supports. 

Atriums at the east and west ends of the building contain painted murals as a tribute to the early pioneers. The state reception room, or Gold Room, is decorated with an abundance of gold leaf, a beautiful ceiling painting, and elegant European furniture. In the House of Representatives chamber, we admired murals depicting Brigham Young, the granting of women’s suffrage in the territory, and a ski jump, representing the importance of outdoor recreation to Utah’s economy. We spotted more beehives, this time on staircase railings and art-glass windows. 

My “Hill Visit” wasn’t complete without having lunch in the Capitol Cafeteria, which is run by Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute program.  As we worked on Cobb salads, we were surrounded by plenty of public employees.  I was tempted to ask who was a longtime worker, contributing to a pension fund, and who was a new hire, saving for retirement with a 401(k). 




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