Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Arizona State Capitol

Sign outside the capitol, 2010 (photo by Katy Tipton)

Protesters against SB1070 outside the capitol, 2010 (photo by Katy Tipton)

Reporter from Channel 33 Noticias reporting outside the capitol during a protest against SB1070, 2010 (photo by Katy Tipton)

1400 W. Washington St, Phoenix
          The original capitol building was created in an effort to establish that Arizona was ready for statehood and no longer a territory. There was a design contest held for the construction of the building that was won by James Riely Gordon, an architect of courthouses throughout the United States. His design was based off a failed proposal of the Mississippi State Capitol. However, this proposal failed once again due to shortages in funding. The project needed to be scaled down. Gordon’s ideas were then scrapped and put on the back burner.
             In 1891, territorial residents of Arizona saw a vision of statehood. They wrote a constitution and proceeded to deliver it to Washington DC. The congressmen in Washington DC denied Arizona’s request of statehood. This is most likely due to the persona that embodied the territory; it was better known for gunfights in the OK Corral and Geronimo and the US capitol didn’t see this territory yet fit to become a part of their union.
           Construction on the capitol building broke ground in 1898 and was officially opened in 1901. It is made out of materials which are indigenous to Arizona, including malapai, granite, and copper dome. The original size of the building was approximately 40,000 square feet, but in 1918 and 1938 expansions were added on to the west wing of the building, increasing the size to about 123,000 square feet.
           Early in Arizona history the economy relied off of “the five C’s”: copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism). These “five C’s” were crucial to Arizona and were therefore incorporated into the state seal. The mosaic seal was to be created in Ohio and shipped to Arizona to place on the main floor of the capitol building. However, there was a mistake made in the production and now “cattle” is notoriously missing from the seal on the floor of the building today.
            In 1910 the territory of Arizona had changed quite a bit. Some friends in Washington DC aided in leading the way to statehood for this wild, western territory. President Howard Taft signed the Enabling Act which allowed the territory to write a state constitution and even allocated $100,000 to do so. On Oct 10, 1910, 52 men from 13 counties gathered for the first time  in the capitol to discuss and foresee needs and laws that would soon become the 48th state of the United States of America. It became time for delegates to sign the new constitution to be sent to voters for election in February 1911. However one delegate refused to sign because they wanted to exclude the judge-recall measure from the constitution. It was territorial governor Terry Sloan who refused to sign and President Taft also refused to approve such a constitution that included the recall of judges. Arizona went back and forth revising the state constitution and it was finally signed and approved on Feb 14, 1912.
            The capitol building was home to the Legislature until 1960. Arizona at this time dreamt of turning the building into a museum dedicated to Arizona’s history. In 1981, after some restorations, the building reopened as a museum. Ten years and three million dollars later, renovations to the rooms were begun in efforts to restore the original design.  However due to budget shortages, some of the rooms on the third floor are still left incomplete. On January 14, 2010 the building was reported to have been sold to private investors, however legislature continues to meet here.
            The capitol itself is now utilized exclusively as a museum and brings in about 60,000 visitors annually, 30,000 of those people being school children. The children tour the museum and learn about Arizona history and the road to statehood. Outside the capital there are often many protests. Most recently the hot topic in Arizona has been the debate over the new immigration bill, SB1070. This bill requires a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person during a legitimate contact by an official of the state, city, county, own or political subdivision if reasonable suspicion exists that they are an alien here unlawfully. Beginning in spring of 2010, over ten thousand people showed up to protest and hold vigils outside the capitol day after day. Protestors marched with signs around the capitol, gave speeches and personal testimonies on the stages, Mexican food vendors showed up, capoeira dancers displayed their talents with a circle of people around, artists sold posters and clothing, etc. People of all backgrounds and ethnicities attended many of these protests and marches. News reporters, radio stations, and even local celebrities showed up to participate in these events. These people attended to share their voice on the controversial bill, which they succeeded at.
            The SB1070 protests is just one example of a protest occurring at the capitol. Typically, if there is a politically controversial issue in Arizona, people will congregate at the capitol to display their feelings on the topic. People feel this is the most effective and noticeable place to protest. The capitol is symbolic of the center of democracy in Arizona, so naturally people are drawn to it. The capitol has a long history and represents years of political struggle and the fight for democracy and statehood. It’s a very powerful symbol of the state. 
- Katy Tipton and Jennifer Sabula

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