Brief History of the Tennessee State Capitol

When you take a look at the Tennessee State Capitol today, it looks almost exactly like it did when the building first opened its doors in 1859. This fact is an incredible tribute to the people who have called this state home over the past 150+ years.

William Strickland designed the building and called it his “crowning achievement.” He died suddenly during its construction in 1854 and was buried in the north façade to be a lasting legacy of his achievements.

The cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1845. It would take 15 years to complete the building. You can find several statues around the property, including those that honor Andrew Johnson and Andrew Jackson.

The Site Was Originally a Cathedral

Before the Tennessee State Capitol was constructed at its current location, the first Roman Catholic cathedral in Nashville was situated there. 

Strickland used extensive stone in its construction, and the building also serves as an early example of how structural iron was used in buildings. The limestone found throughout the building comes from a quarry about a mile from the site.

Some of the interior columns are from a single stone piece, requiring workers at the time to use massive derricks to hoist them in place.

The one scar on the building is that 15 slaves were forced to carve the capitol’s cellar, making it the most significant project where the government rented out people in this fashion.

The tombs of President Polk and his wife are also located on the grounds. Among the historic buildings in Nashville, the State Capitol is one of the finest.