Arbitrary Rivalry Wednesday: Tennessee State Capitol vs Colorado State Capitol

by J.R.

With NBC declaring Hump Day as Rivalry Wednesday and then determining what is and isn’t a rivalry seemingly at random — tonight it’s Ranger and Pens! — III Communication will feature a true Conference III rivalry each and every Wednesday there’s an intra-Conference III game in Arbitrary Rivalry Wednesday Powered By Corporate Champions Wal-Mart Brand Frozen Peas.

Today, in honor of a real on-ice rivalry on the schedule, III Communication invites into the arena two fine statehouses: the Tennessee State Capitol and the Colorado State Capitol.

Throw out the record books — we’re doing this III Communication style.

Tennessee State Capitol!

Tennessee State Capitol!

Colorado State Capitol!

Colorado State Capitol!

Traditional Metrics: Completed in 1859, the Tennessee State Capitol is 113,400 square-feet and rises 170 feet above Capitol Hill and is one of 11 state capitol buildings without a dome. It cost $1 million, inflation adjusted to $27,190,188 in 2012 dollars.

The Colorado State Capitol opened in 1894 and is 268,086 square feet. Designed to be a mile above sea-level, the actual elevation has been re-calculated three times and is now reckoned to be on the 13th step. The dome is 180 feet above Colfax Avenue. It cost $2.7 million, inflation adjusted to $67,941,170.

Verdict: While the Tennessee State Capitol is older — in fact one of the oldest statehouses still in use — Colorado’s Capitol can’t help that Colorado wasn’t a state until 1876. The building is larger, taller and more expensive, even adjusted for inflation (even adjusting the cost of Tennessee’s building for inflation from 1850 to 1890 only puts it at $1.08 million or so)

Advanced Analytics: For this we turn to the number crunchers at Yelp. Tennessee comes in at 4.5 stars and Colorado at 4 (please note there are multiple Yelp entries for each building; we chose the ones with the largest number of reviews), but using just that raw number is like comparing players using Corsi and not even considering their zone starts.

The sample size for both is small: 11 reviews for Tennessee and 16 for Colorado, which makes one wonder what the grandparents of Tennessee and Colorado are doing with their grandchildren if they aren’t visiting historical sites with no admission fee.

Looking at the trend data, Tennessee’s weighted average is dipping while Colorado stays steady, so perhaps 4 stars is the 1000 PDO of state capitols.

Let’s see what the scouts had to say:

Dave S. from Milwaukee reviews Tennessee and he’s a dang expert:

The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville was the 6th of the 13 State Capitols I have visited. I was there in 2003.

This is a great Capitol. The setting is dramatic. It’s perched on the top of a huge hill in Downtown Nashville. Entering the Capitol from the north involves a hefty climb up this grassy, tree-studded hill. Surrounding the Capitol are  great examples of statuary, including an equestrian statue of Nashville’s own Andrew Jackson. The mortal remains of President James K. Polk lie in repose in a simple tomb on the grounds just east of the Capitol. It’s a peaceful, dignified setting for the former President who single-handedly added California and the entire South West to the territory of the United States.

The Capitol itself is much smaller than the other ones I’ve been in. It is more on the scale of a big city public library or courthouse than a state capitol. There’s no dome here. Only a slender, three story tower sticking up from atop the rotunda. The building is constructed entirely out of a grayish-brown limestone.

Overall I really enjoyed this Capitol, because while it doesn’t dazzle you with a huge shiny dome or grandiose oil paintings, it charms you will a cool, classy, tastefully done interior. Historic touches are everywhere, from busts of famous Tennesseans (including Andrew Johnson, the first president to face impeachment) and 1930s-era friezes about the women’s suffrage movement. The Governor’s reception room features murals from the 1920s, a time when it was considered “OK” to paint pictures of “happy slaves” having a grand old time living under the institution of slavery. At first I recoiled when I saw these blatently racist images adorning the walls of the reception area of a Governor. But upon reflection, I’m glad those murals have not been altered or painted over. I’m glad they’re there to remind us of how things used to be and how far we have to go as a nation.

Yep, you never know what you’re going to see when you tour a State Capitol.

For Colorado, we again turn to Dave:

I enjoyed my visit to the Colorado State Capitol. Most capitols I’ve been in keep things pretty simple on the outside, but hit you with the opulance on the inside. Here, the dome is coated in gold leaf, but the interior is all class. In the center of the rotunda is a grand staircase leading to the second floor. You usually don’t see this feature.

The inner dome is bathed in a warm, yellowish light. Very nice effect. Nice old light fixtures and tile work fill the building.

What I most appreciated about the Colorado State Capitol, however, were the artworks. Most capitols bore you with endless busts of famous politicians and grandiose classical style oil paintings. The Colorado Capitol, on the other hand, features a lot of great landscape paintings depicting mountain scenes. The effect is eye catching, and, for the Rocky Mountain State, appropriate.

You can climb up to the rim of the dome where there’s a museum on Colorado history, and absolutely breathtaking views of Denver and the Front Range. Amazing. And, almost literally breathtaking, if you’re not adapted to the high altitude. That climb up a two story spiral staircase nearly knocked me out. Everyone there knew I was from out of town.

Verdict: While the wisdom of crowds and significant samples are one thing, Dave is an expert and Dave gave Tennessee five stars and Colorado just four (probably because he almost died).
ADVANTAGE: Tennessee

Architecture: Tennessee’s State Capitol is Greek Revival, its cupola a mimic of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. Architect William Strickland loved to copy things: the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, also his work, is a virtual copy of the Temple at Karnak (so there’s snakes all over the place, which is weird). The building is made from limestone quarried about a mile away and is one of the earliest uses of structural wrought iron, unusual for the era and thus honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Colorado’s State Capitol is intentionally reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol, ergo it is High Neoclassical, more reminiscent of Rome than Greece. The rose marble quarried at Beulah exhausted the entire known supply of the rock. The building also makes use of Yule marble, which is also used extensively in Washington, D.C.’s monument.

Verdict: We’ll trust the folks at the ASCE.
ADVANTAGE: Tennessee

urlArt & Statuary: The Tennessee State Capitol features statues of Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson (though not James K. Polk, but he is buried on the grounds). There’s also statues of Alvin C. York (pictured and awesome) and Sam Davis, for some reason. In addition, there are monuments to the Holocaust and the Middle Passage and a statue of Edward Ward Carmack, which is stupider than Sam Davis. Inside, there’s standard art you’d expect (including the weird plantation-celebration paintings Dave described) and a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Jeez Louise.

Closing_of_an_Era_statue_in_Denver,_COColorado has portraits of every U.S. President, which is neat, and stained glass depicting important events in the state’s history. “The Closing Of An Era” statue is outside (left) along with a soldier’s memorial.

Verdict: As badass as the York statue is, Colorado’s stained-glass history lesson is awesome.

Hauntings: Tennessee’s State Capitol has a pretty solid ghost story. Strickland got in many arguments with the head of the state’s Capitol Commission, a guy named Samuel Morgan, who was a notorious penny-pincher. Morgan tried to rein in costs and Strickland always pushed the envelope. Both ended up buried in the Capitol crypt and its said, at night, they can still be heard arguing with each other.

There are two famous ghost stories from Colorado’s State Capitol: first is a Victorian lady who roams the Senate gallery. Supposedly she missed her husband when he served in the legislature. The other concerns the Espinosa brothers:

The Espinosas, upset with squatters, reportedly killed about two dozen people in the early 1860s.

Tracker Tom Tobin and a handful of soldiers killed the Espinosas during a shootout in 1863, and their heads reportedly were delivered to the Capitol.

Cole says the heads were stored briefly in the treasurer’s office and later in a storage area in the basement of the Capitol for decades before being disposed of in a furnace. Cole says the hoof beats supposedly come from the Espinosa brothers’ ghosts on horseback looking for their heads.


Verdict: Both of those stories are pretty crazy. A centuries long budget fight or horses looking for headless brothers?

FINAL JUDGEMENT: It’s a 2-2 tie unable to be broken by ghosts. We go to the shootout. Who do you like?