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Artistic Treasure: PA State Capitol Complex

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  • December 3, 2018
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Rotunda Exterior Image PA State Capitol Complex
The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building complex, Harrisburg, PA.The 272-foot, 52 million-pound capitol dome glistens with Vermont granite and is topped with a green-glazed terra cotta tile roof and inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo courtesy of Visit Hershey-Harrisburg

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

An Architectural Masterpiece

Plan a visit to Harrisburg and add this National Historic Landmark to your itinerary.

Imagine you’re standing in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building around the time of its dedication on Oct. 4, 1906. Close your eyes and envision you’re looking skyward at what was considered to be the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The capitol building held that record for 80 years. That must have been quite a sight to behold.

As a life-long Pennsylvania resident, I’m sorry to note I had only seen my state’s capitol building from a distance until earlier this year on a sunny late September day. As the traffic whizzed by me, I took a moment to admire the dome from the sidewalk in front of the complex. I realized I had no idea what entrance to use. As I walked up and down two flights of exterior steps twice, I checked my watch and realized I was five minutes late for my scheduled tour. I stopped briefly to ask a bystander to point to the main entrance that would lead me to the main lobby and the man directed me to two sets of double doors. A security guard mapped out my trek to the lobby where I found the information desk surrounded by several large groups of visitors who were ready to embark on their tours. There, I met my tour guide.

Visit Hershey-Harrisburg arranged my tour as part of a three-day media trip to Hershey and Harrisburg. I left Central Pennsylvania with a significantly greater understanding of why Harrisburg has remained Pennsylvania’s capital since October 1812 thanks to my tour guide, Jill Fetter. She’s the Capitol Visitor Services director and The Pennsylvania Capitol Shop manager in the Main Rotunda and an expert in both the building’s history and design.

Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston (1866-1940), designed the massive capital structure based on his vision of a “Palace of Art” and that’s exactly what you’ll find. The building and furnishings cost $13 billion.

Aside from its obvious grandeur and size, the exterior of the building is a gateway to the splendor you’ll find inside – classic American Renaissance style architecture that’s combined with artistic details that are unspeakably magnificent and illuminated by approximately 4,000 lights and 48 portholes in the dome.

Suffice to say, the building lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful capitol building in our nation. In fact, history has it that President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the capital as “the handsomest building” he ever saw when he attended the dedication of the building.

PA State Capitol Building Architecture Art
A visitor stops for a moment to gaze at the statues and ornamentation as he descended the grand staircase in the main building. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

The interior focal point is the grand staircase – an ideal vantage point for visitors to view eight large murals by Philadelphia artists, Edwin Austin Abbey, and the famous Barnard  Statues by George Grey Barnard, and 17-foot bronze doors that each weighs a ton. Keeping your eyes fixed on one element at a time might be difficult for even the most disciplined spectator as your tour guide describes each of the massive installations of stained glass, murals, and paintings crafted by the most talented artisans of that era.

Pennsylvania historical exhibits
Love art? The capitol building is as much a series of exhibits as it is a hub for lawmakers and lobbyists. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Some of the largest rooms feature a European influence with distinctive Renaissance elements – Italian in the House Chamber, French in the Senate Chamber, and English in the Governor’s Reception Room. Add to that mix Greek, Roman and Victorian installations of exquisite art and ornamentation displayed throughout the building.

PA Senate and House Chambers Tours
When the legislature is not in session, you’ll have a chance to gaze at the murals, gold embellishments, custom-crafted lighting fixtures, and exquisite woodwork in the chambers. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui
Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex Tours
What will you learn during a tour of the PA State Capitol Complex? This massive structure is an ideal opportunity for students of all ages to learn local, state, and national histories, law and politics, and art and architecture. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Historians, politicians, teachers, students, architects, travelers, and anyone with an appreciation for history and art and a fascination with politics and lawmaking, should visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol complex. Architectural students will want to study how Huston, the architect-of-record, incorporated motifs that embody Pennsylvania’s achievements in history, animals, industries, occupations, and modes of transportation into his design. Whether your glance is towards the dome, straight ahead, or under your feet, you’ll find examples of Huston’s affinity for art. One example is the Moravian tiles you’ll see intermingled on the lobby floor. They were designed and manufactured by Henry Chapman Mercer of Doylestown, PA as a way to illustrate and incorporate the talents and wares of local craftsman.

Henry Chapman Mercer Moravian Tiles
As many as 400 tile mosaics by Henry Chapman Mercer, a Doylestown, PA craftsman, are interspersed throughout the first floor of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building Rotunda and nearby corridors. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui
William B. Van Ingen 24 Stained Glass windows
The “Militia” is one of 24 stained glass windows in the Senate and House Chambers crafted by Philadelphia native William B. Van Ingen. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

There’s so much to see and take in at the State Capitol Building.  Take the time to download the PA Capitol Self-Guided Tour Mobile app to learn about the self-guided tour stops, how a bill becomes law in PA, and research additional information in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Tours are free and offered every half hour Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on weekends and most holidays at 9 and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. You won’t be able to tour the capitol building on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas day but you’ll have plenty of other options before or after those holidays. I encourage you to register for a tour so won’t miss a detail along the way. A Capitol Tour Guide will fill your head with architectural, artistic, and political highlights that will make this building’s incomparable beauty come alive for you. If you decide to wait to schedule your tour until you arrive in Harrisburg, be sure to check the schedule before arriving at the capitol complex.

PA State Capitol Complex Tour Guides
Allow Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex tour guides, Jill Fetter and her staff, to show you around one of Pennsylvania’s most extraordinary buildings.

For help planning your trip to Pennsylvania, visit www.VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org.

My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences. 

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historic architecture historic depots Historic hotels historic Scranton landmarks Lifestyle Northeastern Pennsylvania history Pennsylvania Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel Scranton Landmark Scranton lodging

Scranton landmark hotel: The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel

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  • April 3, 2017
Scranton landmark hotel: The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel
The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, a Scranton landmark hotel and formerly a bustling train depot, was built in 1908. Photo by Kento Matsui 2016 taken during Scranton’s 100th Birthday Celebration. 

Visit an iconic Scranton Landmark

The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel 

If you have ties to Northeastern Pennsylvania, you probably already know bits and pieces of the history of one of Scranton’s iconic landmarks.

Scranton landmark hotel
The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton, PA offers guests amenities they would find at a metropolitan hotel, with the added vintage charm of a turn-of-the-century Scranton landmark hotel. 

The former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad station, known today as The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, is a sight to behold and one I have admired for as long as I can remember. You simply can’t miss the limestone facade and the eight-foot bronze clock that’s prominently displayed on the front of the building as you head south on Jefferson Avenue. History buffs and travelers looking for a quaint and authentic experience, with distinctive architectural elements, will savor every moment at this Scranton landmark hotel.

Scranton landmark hotel
Regardless of the time of year you visit the hotel, the lobby is a masterpiece work of art in itself. Take time to notice the exquisite tiles that adorn the marble walls.

Architect Kenneth Murchison designed the station in 1906, as a replacement for a much smaller depot only blocks away on Lackawanna Avenue. The grand French Renaissance-style station is awe-inspiring as its poised between Spruce Street and Lackawanna Avenue.

The five-story structure was built in 1908 but a sixth floor was added in the 1920s to provide additional office space.

One of the most notable features in the lobby is a barrel-vaulted ceiling.

 

History buffs will marvel at the significant role the depot played in Scranton’s past as a transportation hub for travelers.

You can learn more about the history of the station at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWtea9H5Hjs

For me, it’s the delightful mix of history, architectural ornamentation that includes marble walls, hand-painted tiles and a barrel-vaulted ceiling adorned with Tiffany glass, combined with some very fond childhood memories. As a child, my late father, a commercial hardware designer, and I wandered around the first-floor before and after the station closed and rail service ended. Until recently, on only one occasion did I venture upstairs into one of the guest rooms.

In January, I was an overnight guest and treated to a night in one of the posh newly renovated suites.

Sweet Dreams 

When the time to relax or fall asleep is upon you, the ambiance of the sleeping area will have you dreaming of days gone by. The guest suite amenities are plentiful with a desk and a comfortable chair for those guests who happen to bring work along, a coffee maker, refrigerator two flatscreen televisions, and a decor that’s soothing to the eye.

Scranton landmark hotel
With ultra-comfortable linens and pillows, if you choose to read or work before you nod off, you might have a difficult time staying awake. Task lighting provides a perfect environment to watch television or surf the web with free high-speed internet while lounging on your bed. The hotel offers 146 posh lodging options and outstanding services to optimize your experience. 

Other amenities include the hotel’s business center, a complimentary shuttle ride to AVP Airport and local attractions, fitness center, same-day dry cleaning and a pet-friendly policy.

There are so many opportunities to explore Scranton’s rich history and cultural heritage at the nearby Steamtown National Historic Site. More information regarding admission prices and exhibits are available here.

Take a walking tour of some of the city’s other historic buildings. Shop at The Marketplace at Steamtown or one of many specialty boutiques and art galleries or spend your afternoon at The Everhart Museum, located only a few miles from the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Nay Aug Park. The museum was founded in 1908 and is one of the oldest museums in the state of Pennsylvania.

Are you ready for a sumptuous meal? 

Whether you choose to order room service or you’re looking to socialize over a cocktail or fine wine, the dining options at this Scranton landmark hotel are as varied as an 8 oz Grilled Filet Mignon or Flat Bread with sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella. You’ll find three on-site dining choices, beginning with your jolt of morning caffeine and a croissant or pastry at the Station Café. Throughout your day, find your perfect meal at the award-winning Carmen’s 2.0 Restaurant & World Tour Menu or Trax Platform Lounge, a popular more casual meeting evening destination for both local residents and hotel guests. Order an appetizer, salad or entree to pair with your cocktail, tap beer or wine.

Scranton landmark hotel
Trax Platform Lounge is located on the original loading dock.
Scranton landmark hotel
The decor at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel is a delightful blend of old and new.

Please follow this link to see videos featuring Michael Kearney, Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel manager. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this extraordinary hotel. Many thanks to Michael Kearney his gracious hospitality and Michael Chandler, facility manager, for his technical assistance during the filming of these videos. Stay tuned for more videos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmzwmmIw1oA

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