When Maine separated from Massachusetts and became a state in 1820, a number of cities and towns sought the honor of becoming the state capitol and site of the new State House. The principal aspirants were Portland, Brunswick, Hallowell, Waterville, Belfast, Wiscasset and Augusta.
The Legislature finally selected the City of Augusta, and Governor Enoch Lincoln signed the bill establishing Augusta as the official capitol on February 24, 1827.
The lot occupied by the State House and State grounds, containing thirty-four acres and extending from the old Hallowell road to the Kennebec River, was chosen by the Governor and the Commissions after careful consideration of various sites on both sides of the river.
stehse_small.gif (6491 bytes) The building was designed by the renowned architect, Charles Bulfinch of Boston, and, in its original form, resembled another work of his, the Massachusetts State House.
About one hundred and fifty feet in length, including the central portion with columns and cupola and two wings extending north and south, the buildings cornerstone was laid on the 4th of July, 1829, amid impressive Masonic ceremonies. Construction was of granite from Hallowell quarries and took three years to complete.
The cost of the building was originally estimated to be $80,000, but when completed, expenditures of the building, furnishings and grounds amounted to $139,000 of which $11,500 was contributed by the City of Augusta.
The Maine Legislature held its first session in the new State Capitol on January 4, 1832.
The interior of the Capitol was remodeled in 1852 and again in 1860 to provide additional room for state departments.
In 1890-1891, a large three-story wing was added to the rear of the building to accommodate the State Library and to provide more office space for departments.
Major remodeling of the Capitol during 1909-1910 established the present-day appearance of the building. It was enlarged according to designs by G. Henri Desmond, necessitating the demolition of almost all the old buildings save the front and rear walls.
While the noble Bulfinch front was preserved, the length of the building was doubled to three hundred feet by extending the north and south wings. A dome, rising to a height of one hundred and eighty-five feet was built to replace the original cupola.
The dome was surmounted by a statue, the draped female figure of Wisdom, designed by W. Clark Noble of Gardiner, and made of copper overlaid with gold.
The House of Representatives occupies the third and fourth floors of the north wing and the Senate Chambers occupy similar quarters in the south wing.
The Executive Department is located in renovated offices on the second floor at the rear of the central portion of the Capitol along with the Hall of Flags and the extensive Law Library. The Governor's office overlooks the massive, granite State Office Building.
At the south side of the Capitol Grounds, the State Library, State Museum and State Archives are housed in a modern building.
The old State Museum is located in a first floor reception area of the south wing of the Capitol. It still houses Maine wildlife scenes, created by the late Klir Beck of Mt. Vernon, Maine.
Throughout the building are portraits of Governors and other outstanding men and women who have served Maine throughout her history as a province and a state.