Mississippi State Capitol Tour

Part 1. The Architecture and Sculpture

David Smitherman
10 min readApr 27, 2024

The Mississippi State Capitol is located in Jackson, slightly southwest of the center of the State. The Mississippi River borders the State’s western boundary with Arkansas and Louisiana, and the Pearl River borders its southwestern boundary with Louisiana. The Gulf of Mexico is to the south, and the States of Tennessee and Alabama are to the north and east, forming the remaining boundaries. The Tennessee River forms the northeast corner of the State where the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway connects the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River through a series of canals, locks, and dams across the north eastern part of the State. Mississippi is noted for its relatively flat, lowlands, with fertile river deltas, contributing significantly to its major economies in agriculture and forestry.

Mississippi State Capitol.

The State House Design

The Mississippi State Capitol was built from 1901 to 1903 in a Beaux Arts architectural style designed by the architect Theodore Carl Link from Saint Louis Missouri, and built by the Wells Brothers Company of Chicago Illinois. It displays a grand public entrance through a south facing portico to a Rotunda capped with a tall dome. The Governor’s Office is located in the upper floor behind the portico, and the House and Senate Chambers are located at each end of the upper level semicircular porticos, each capped with minor domes.

The Capitol at completion in 1903.

The elevation displays a grand symmetrical design with the large central dome and two minor domes, over a three story building, that rest on a base floor level. The foundation extends another 25 feet deep to account for the poor soil conditions on the site. The elevation drawing refers to a Mississippi State House, which is what it was called in 1903, and then later changed from State House to State Capitol.

Mississippi State House design by Link.

The building design uses a steel frame structure, encased in brick with thick brick walls, clad in Indiana Limestone from the base level up. The base level, or the original basement floor, uses Georgia granite, as does the exterior stairs leading up to the original main entrance level.

The architect, Theodore Carl Link, 1850 to 1923, was born in Germany where he studied at the University of Heidelberg, and then at the École Centrale Paris. He immigrated to the United States in 1873, and moved to Saint Louis Missouri, where he worked for a railroad company, a public parks service, and then in 1889, opening a private practice in architecture. He was soon commissioned as one of the architects for the 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis, and then won a competition for the design of the Mississippi State Capitol.

Theodore Carl Link.

A Mississippi State House Commission had set up a competition for the design and construction of the capitol, and hired Bernard Green to decide on the best design. Bernard Green was a civil engineer, and superintendent for the construction of the Library of Congress. He selected Link’s design from one of fourteen that had been submitted for consideration.

Theodore Link’s success in Jackson led to more work in Mississippi and also Louisiana, where he designed numerous buildings for the new Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge. Link is noted for his many classically designed buildings that have been preserved, with some of his best works in a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.

The Dome

The main dome is a steel frame structure with limestone-colored terra cotta tiles over the surface, supported by a barrel section featuring a limestone colonnade. The barrel section behind the colonnade has windows that provide natural lighting to the interior Rotunda. The dome uses a double shell construction with an interior supporting structure that provides service access to both interior and exterior elements. In addition the double shell permits a properly proportioned exterior without looking too short, and an interior height that doesn’t look too tall. When viewed from outside and then inside, it gives the appearance of a single dome shape, with no evidence that their is a structural utility space in between.

Completed Dome in 1903, and dome design drawings by Link.

An architect friend of Link, George R Mann, can be given some credit for the dome. Link requested and received permission to use Mann’s design for the Arkansas State Capitol dome for use on the Mississippi State Capitol. So, although the Arkansas and Mississippi Capitols have different plans and building facades, the main dome for each have many similarities.

George R Mann, 1856 to 1939, was born in Syracuse Indiana. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and eventually set up a practice in Little Rock Arkansas where he designed the Arkansas State Capitol and numerous other buildings, many of which are still standing today.

The dome is crowned with an Eagle that is eight feet tall and 15 feet wide, facing south, overlooking the main entrance to the capitol building. It is made of copper covered in gold leaf, giving it a bright, glistening color.

Eagle sculpture atop the dome, by A R Grieve.

The sculptor, A R Grieve of Saint Louis, used copper sheets hammered into a form made from his original sculpture, and then soldered together over a metal frame, making it strong, lightweight, and durable.

A R Grieve and the completed Eagle sculpture.

The Pediment

Above the main entrance portico is the Pediment, which displays a Tympanum Sculpture, by Robert P Bringhurst of Saint Louis. The sculpture represents the Arts, Industry, and Resources, of Mississippi at that time in 1903.

Dome, Pediment, and Portico details, with leaded glass windows in the Governor’s office.

The center piece of the Tympanum Sculpture is a figure representing Mother Mississippi, seated on a bale of cotton. To her left are figures representing Productiveness and History, and to her right are figures representing Industry and Science.

History, Productiveness, Mother Mississippi, Industry and Science.

On her far left are figures, left to right, representing a Listener, Poetry, Music, Laborer, and Native American; and on her far right are figures, left to right, representing an Apprentice, Blacksmith, Art, and Hunter.

The Listener, Poetry, Music, the Laborer, the Native American; an Apprentice, Blacksmith, Art, and a Hunter with his dog.

Some of the notable details are the Corinthian Columns used at all of the porticos, and the beautiful semicircular porticos at each end of the building.

Semicircular portico, and Corinthian column details.

At ground level all of the entrances, interlocking stones, and details, like the lighting, are moulded into the granite base.

First level exterior entrance and lantern light details.

The visitors entrance on the First Floor is in the base level, under the monumental entrance stairs on the south side of the building. The visitor entrance provides both public pedestrian access and a covered vehicle drop-off under the stair.

Mississippi State Capitol visitors entrance on south side.

The north entrance is for access by employees and building services, but features a monumental stair leading up to a small plaza at the entry level on the second floor.

North entrance.

Details over the north entrance include three stained glass windows from the interior Grand Staircase, and a circular Art Nouveau window in the pediment crowning the top of the Grand Staircase.

Stained glass windows, and circular art glass window details above the north entrance.

Capitol Grounds

There is one sculpture on the Capitol Grounds, known as the Women of the Confederacy, by sculptor Belle Kinney. It depicts the allegorical figure Fame, bestowing honor and comfort to a Confederate woman tending to a dying Confederate soldier. There are two sculptures like this by Kinney. One on the Tennessee State Capitol grounds in Nashville erected in 1926, and this sculpture in front of the Mississippi State Capitol, erected in 1912. The Mississippi monument includes an elaborate inscription, whereas the Tennessee monument includes the inscription titles only.

Mississippi’s Women of the Confederacy, by sculptor Belle Kinney.

Belle Marshall Kinney Scholz, 1890 to 1959, was born in Tennessee, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She opened a studio in Greenwich Village New York, and completed many major works independently, and together with sculptor Leopold F Scholz, whom she eventually married.

The inscription for the Mississippi monument reads as follows:

United Confederate Veterans Honor the Memory of the Confederate Women of Mississippi

Our Mothers: To the women of the Confederacy whose pious ministrations to our wounded soldiers soothed the last hours of those who died far from the objects of their tenderest love; whose domestic labors contributed much to supply the wants of our defenders in the field; whose zealous faith in our cause shone a guiding star undimmed by the darkest clouds of war; whose fortitude sustained them under all the privations to which they were subjected; whose floral tribute annually expresses their enduring love and reverence for our sacred dead; and whose patriotism will teach their children to emulate the deeds of our revolutionary sires. Jefferson Davis.

Our Daughters: Devoted daughters of heroic women and noble men, they keep the mounds of loved ones sweet with flowers and perpetuated in marble and bronze the granite characters of a soldiery that won the admiration of the world and a womanhood whose ministrations were as tender as an angel’s benediction.

Our Sisters: Their smiles inspired hope; their tender hands soothed the pangs of pain; their prayers encouraged faith in God; and when the dragon of war closed its fangs of poison and death, they, like guardian angels, entwined their hands in their brothers arms, encouraged them to overcome the losses of war and to conquer the evils in its wake; adopting as their motto: “Lest We Forget”.

Our Wives: They loved their land because it was their own, and scorned to seek another reason why calamity was their touchstone; and in the ordeal of fire their fragility was tempered to the strength of steel. Angels of comfort their courage and tenderness soothed all wounds of body and of spirit more than medicines. They girded their gentle hearts with fortitude and, suffering all things, hoping all things, fed the failing fires of patriotism to the end. The memory and example of their devotion shall endure.

An issue that should be addressed is that there are no references made here or elsewhere on the capitol grounds as to the sacrifices African Americans made leading up to the Civil War or in times since the war. There is a placard at the northeast corner of the grounds acknowledging a Capitol Rally and a civil rights march from 1966, now designated as part of the Mississippi Freedom Trail from Memphis to Jackson, but nothing else. There is another Confederate monument in front of the Archives and History building, adjacent to the former capitol building now known as the Old Capitol Museum. This would probably be a better location for the Confederate Women’s memorial.

Part 2 continues with a tour of the interior.

Travel Notes

Employee and executive parking areas are on the Capitol Grounds, with public parking available on the streets around the capitol, and the adjacent city blocks.

Google Earth view of the capitol and grounds from the southeast.

When the legislature is in session, most of the perimeter parking around the capitol will be marked with reserved signage for the state legislators. That was the case when I visited, but there was still plenty of parking on the neighboring blocks.

Notes and References

Story and photographs by David Smitherman, with data collected from onsite inscriptions and brochures, Wikipedia, and Google Earth. Site visits were made in January 2020 and March 2024.

On line video, “Experience the Mississippi State Capitol, A National Historic Landmark,” produced by the Mississippi Public Broadcasting, 2021. Available at their Virtual Tour, https://www.legislature.ms.gov/about-the-capitol/virtual-tour/.

“Fifty State Capitols: The Architecture of Representative Government,” by Jim Stembridge, second edition, www.fiftystatecapitols.com, 2019.

“Temples of Democracy” by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and William Seal, 1976.

Mississippi Women of the Confederacy. https://andspeakingofwhich.blogspot.com/2012/10/mississippis-women-of-confederacy.html

Theodore Link Collection of black and white photographs on display at the visitors desk in the Mississippi State Capitol.

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David Smitherman

Retired architect and space architect from NASA. Married with a growing family. Currently into travel, historical architecture, photography and genealogy.