Capitol Facts & History

History of the Legislative Building

Washington State’s Legislative Building, completed in 1928 after six years of construction, serves as both a working governmental center and a symbol of Washington’s free and democratic government. It is the centerpiece of the five historic buildings designed by New York architects Walter Wilder and Harry White. Conceived in the architectural competition of 1911 and selected by the State Capitol Commission, Wilder and White’s designs for the Legislative Building were completed and set into motion in 1922. More information about the history of the building can be found online at

Since it opened, the Legislative Building has withstood three major earthquakes, the most recent being the February 28, 2001 'Nisqually' earthquake, thanks in large part to the excellent structural design by Wilder and White, and the superior craftsmanship of the original builders. The building underwent significant seismic upgrades following the earthquakes of 1949 and 1965.

A three-year rehabilitation and earthquake-repair project was completed in 2004. The $120 million project added modern heating and cooling, plumbing, fire protection and state-of-the-art wireless technology systems, while maintaining historic features. It also improved accessibility, added new public space, made further seismic and security upgrades, and repaired damage caused by the 2001 earthquake.

As part of the environmentally-friendly building practices used throughout the project, more than 80 percent of the construction waste - 8,000 tons of wood, concrete, paper, bricks, dirt, metal and drywall - was recycled. The project also placed 144 solar panels atop the fifth-floor roof of the building - the largest array of solar panels on a capitol in the United States.

The Legislative Building is comprised of more than 173 million pounds of stone, brick, concrete, and steel. It is one of the tallest masonry dome in the world and the tallest in North America, rising 287 feet high. Below are some additional facts about the building.

Facts about Legislative Building

Lantern (top cupola on building) 500,000 lbs
Dome (curved portion) 11,200,000 lbs
Colonnade/Drum (just below dome) 21,500,000 lbs
“The Dome” (sub-total of above figures) 33,200,000 lbs
Pedestal (central rotunda portion of the Leg. building) 49,700,000 lbs
East Wing (all four levels) 31,100,000 lbs
West Wing (all four levels) 31,100,000 lbs
North Portico 10,100,000 lbs
South Portico 13,300,000 lbs
Foundations 20,000,000 lbs
TOTAL 188,500,000 lbs
or 94,250 tons
* For some comparisons:  
Empire State Building (4 times the Leg.) 730,000,000 lbs
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier 194,000,000 lbs
Washington Monument (in D.C.) 181,708,000 lbs
Seattle Space Needle (1/10 of the Leg.) 19,100,000 lbs
Approximate tons of stone and granite 12,000 or 8850 Volkswagen Beetles
Approximate tons of brick 9,500 or 5538 Orca Whales
Approximate tons of concrete 28,800 or 3740 African Elephants
From grade to top of lantern 287 feet
From base of dome to top of lantern 102 feet
From interior stair platform to ceiling of dome 165 feet
It is one of the tallest masonry dome in the world, and the tallest in North America  
It is surpassed by:  
St. Peter’s Cathedral, Rome, Italy 446 feet
St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK 355.5 feet
Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai, India 315.5 feet
Santa Maria Del Fiore, Florence, Italy 295 feet
* For some comparisons:  
Eiffel Tower, Paris (3 1/2 times the Leg.) 986 feet
US Capitol, Washington D.C. 302 feet
Adult male giraffe (1/14 of the Leg.) 20 feet
* For some comparisons:  
Football Field (1/4 of the Leg.) 57,600 sq. ft.
Vatican City (20 times the Leg.) 4,734,400 sq. ft.
Cubical contents of building 4,600,000 cubic ft.
* For some comparisons:  
It would take 136 Olympic-sized swimming pools to fill the Legislative Building completely with water.
It would take 28 average-sized water towers to fill the Legislative Building completely with water.
Approximate Costs of Principal Finish Materials:  
  Marble $840,000
  Plastering $187,000
  Ornamental Iron $45,000
  Ornamental Bronze $320,000
  Stone Carving $180,000
  Interior Wood Trim $84,000
  Rubber Tile $65,000
  Painting $122,000
  Elevators $96,000
  Plumbing, Heating, and Ventilating $383,000
  Total Cost of Building in 1928 $6,791,595.88
  Cost of Furnishings in 1928 $594,172.33


* For some comparisons:
To reconstruct the Legislative Building with the same materials and workmanship today, it would cost over $1 billion. That is 135 times more!
Exterior Sandstone: Wilkeson Quarries, Pierce County, Washington
Interior Marble: Type Origin
  Senate Chamber Formosa Germany
  House Chamber Escalette France
  State Reception Room Bresche Violet Italy
  Main Corridors Gray Alaska
Outside Lighting:  
150-watt incandescent bulbs on top of the outside lower columns 85
250-watt metal halide bulbs at the bottom of the 8th floor columns 26
421-watt LED light fixture on the 5th floor roof used to light the dome 8
50-watt sodium bulbs used to light the terrace 48
Inside Lighting:  
15-watt to 300-watt incandescent bulbs throughout the building 2550
Florescent light fixtures throughout the building 2616