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Mar 27, 2023

With the Indiana Legislature in full swing, it's ideal timing to spotlight the Indiana State Capitol, including history stories from its top (the dome) to its bottom (the cavernous basement, which once held everything from cannon balls to bathtubs for legislators and secret staircases). We also will time travel to an era before the current Statehouse, built of limestone, opened in 1888.

Before that, state lawmakers met in an earlier Statehouse built in 1835 that unwisely involved the extensive use of stucco on the exterior. Suffice it to say that the "stucco Statehouse" did not hold up well during Indiana winters. After the ceiling came crashing down in 1867 in the room where the House of Representatives met (fortunately, the legislature was not in session during the collapse), state leaders realized the stucco structure desperately needed to be demolished and initiated plans to construct the current State Capitol building. But there were controversies from the start with the so-called "People's House", including squabbles among prospective architects and cost-cutting moves that impacted the design of the dome, as our guest has written about.

Our guide for Statehouse stories will be a retired lawyer and lobbyist, Libby Cierzniak, who now writes a blog about Indianapolis city history, Her most recent blog post, titled "What lies beneath: Secrets of the Statehouse basement", describes an astounding range of creepy, colorful or just plain unexpected items and uses for the subterranean level.