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Where has the Legislature met? Minnesota capitols and temporary locations

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Since territorial times, where has the Legislature convened? There have been three state capitol buildings. In all, the House or Senate has met in regular or special session in nine buildings.  Three were official capitol buildings, and the remainder were short-term locations. Where were they?


September 3, 1949. 1st Territorial Legislature  Temporary

The makeshift first capitol was the Central House Hotel in St. Paul, where the 18 members of the House waited to convene until the breakfast dishes were cleared from the dining room.  Upstairs, the nine new Council members moved their desks aside each evening to make way for cots and mattresses.

Location:  NE corner of Minnesota Street and Bench Street (which was also Second Street).  Bench Street extended along the Mississippi River bluff between Third Street and the river.


January 1, 1851.  2nd Territorial Legislature Temporary

Legislators met in a three-story brick building, the Rice & Banfil Building, just completed, on the site where the well-known Metropolitan Hotel would later stand.  (The Rice & Banfil Building burned down in the winter of 1856-7.) They dealt with building a capitol right away. Chapter 2 of the 1851 laws stated, "The Capitol or Public Buildings for the sessions of the Legislative Assembly...shall be erected at a central point in the Town of St. Paul." By fall, bids were requested by the Board of Commissioners for Public Buildings for two important buildings, both for $40,000 -- the Capitol Building in St. Paul and the Territorial Prison in Stillwater.

Location: St. Anthony Street (which was also Third Street), between Washington and Franklin.


January 7, 1852. 3rd Territorial Legislature Temporary

This temporary location was in a commercial brick building known as the Goodrich Building, since it was built by Judge Goodrich.

Location: On Third Street, below Jackson. This was later the site of the Merchants Hotel.


January 5, 1853.  4th Territorial Legislature Temporary

The last temporary location before the first Capitol was built was a two-story brick building, the Chouteau building on the Corner of Third and Minnesota Streets. 


first state capitolJanuary 4, 1854-March 1, 1881.  5th Territorial Legislature - 22nd Legislature  Capitol #1

The fifth legislature of the territory met in Minnesota's first capitol building.  The chambers were lit by candles and heated by box iron stoves, large enough to hold four-foot logs.  Even so, the temperature could drop almost to zero.

The first capitol was designed by N.C. Prentiss and stood at 10th and Exchange Streets, between Cedar and Wabasha.  The land was donated to the territory by Charles Bazille on June 27, 1851.  Building operations commenced within a month, and it was completed in 1853, for $31,222.65.  The original structure, designed by N.C. Prentiss, underwent two expansions in the 1870s and was restyled in the Italianate mode by Abraham Radcliffe. 

President Millard Fillmore visited the new capitol visited the capitol shortly after it was built.

The capitol was destroyed by fire on March 1, 1881, while both bodies were in session. Everyone survived, it was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune. In the House, "Men, usually calm, dashed wildly about the room, a thousand terrible fancies flashing through their brains." In the Senate, "Brave men blanched with fear," as they looked for escape routes. ""Someone should move to adjourn," shouted the Secretary, and Senator Crooks made the motion, which was put and responded to with an unanimity of sentiment not usually encountered." In the end, "the dome was a great beacon of light, spreading a lurid glare over the entire city."

Location: 10th and Exchange Streets between Cedar and Wabasha. See images of the first state capitol from the Minnesota Historical Society.


March 2, 1881-November 19, 1881 22nd Legislature Temporary

By 11 am on the day following the fire, the Legislature met in the Market House, a commercial building designed by Abraham Radcliffe, the same architect who designed additions to the now-destroyed capitol building.  This photo shows the building with its distinctive clock tower later, in 1908, when it housed the St. Paul Public Library. 

Location: Between Wabasha and St. Peter on West 7th Street


January 1883-1904 23rd Legislature-33rd Legislature  Capitol #2

Early on, the capitol building suffered from poor ventilation and lack of space for committee hearings. By April 1893 a bill was passed to construct the next capitol building (Chapter 2, 1893).  After the new capitol opened in 1905, the former capitol was used for state offices until it was torn down in 1938. 

Location: Between Wabasha and St. Peter on West 7th Street.  See images of the second state capitol from the Minnesota Historical Society.


1905-present 34th Legislature - present  Capitol #3

Ground was broken on the site (which cost $367,161.98) on May 6, 1896.  The cornerstone was laid on July 27, 1898. The total cost was $4,458,628.27. Read a detailed architectural history from the Minnesota Historical Society.

A slight shift happened in 1989, during a special session called in September. The House Chamber was in the midst of remodeling, so the House and Senate each met in the Senate Chamber. (Photo, Perspectives, p. 3)

Location: 75 Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard


2013 Temporary

The House continued to meet in the capitol, even while it was undergoing extensive renovations during the three-year Capitol Restoration Project.  The Senate met in the newly constructed Senate Office Building.

Location:


Sources:

Dean, Hon. William B. A History of the Capitol Buildings of Minnesota, With Some Account of the Struggles for Their Location. St Paul: Minnesota Historical Scoiety Collections, Volume 12, 1906.

Martinson, Flora P.  "Minnesota's Territorial Legislature."  Gopher Historian, Winter 1956-7, p. 6-9.

Minnesota Legislative Manual, 1889, p. 246-250.

Williams, J. Fletcher. A History of the City of St. Paul to 1875.  St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1983.