Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Extraordinary RI Statehouse Experience

Usually, these state capitol posts begin with an image like this:

...but the best photo taken at the statehouse in Providence yesterday was this one:

That's me up here... the the spot where that chandelier is attached to the ceiling.

This time, I went to the Rhode Island statehouse as both a tourist and a journalist. The day before, I learned about a racino in Lincoln, R.I., called Twin River that is going bankrupt for a list of reasons that I'll get into in a later post. But I pitched a piece on it -- it was the nation's first racino and now they're trying to get rid of the racing part -- to the New York Times and the piece runs in Sunday's papers.

So when I went to the statehouse, I did so in part to check it out as is my thing but also to meet with the state officials and politicians. And when the governor's spokeswoman, Amy Kempe, agreed to take me on a private walk up a spiral staircase to the top of the dome, I could not possibly refuse.

This is what it looks like looking down:

Here's that staircase...

...and here's the first thing you see when you enter the secret door:

On the way up we were able to go outside and see the city:

That's the top of the dome of one of the two houses of the General Assembly. For some reason, I didn't take many photos of the Senate or House, but I did like these chairs in the Senate:

All in all, the Rhode Island capitol was among the most beautiful and impressive I've ever seen and I'm not just saying that because I got some nifty special access. Everything is sensational marble and design. Here's the entry landing and, yes, there was a tour group of Buddhist monks this time around. (At the Massachusetts statehouse, we ran into a gaggle of Chinese tourists!)

There was plenty of quirk. This was a nice sentiment... (click on image to enlarge)

...but why was it in the men's room?

This piece of artwork was from the people of Liberia...

...who thank Rhode Islanders in that little tag for their assistance during a civil war there. What did the Ocean Staters do, one wonders!

There were statues all over honoring the military, but this one honoring the Navy was one of the gayest looking things I've ever seen...

...and this one for the Air Force looks female even though it was gifted to the state years before women could be in the branch.

In one of the old meeting rooms, this sign was found:

One wonders if Dana gets a lot of calls from people unsure how to get out without opening the door!?!?!

And finally, I would agree with this book title, "Rhode Island: A Genial History,"...

...especially given that this is a state on the forefront of religious liberty and was the first place for Jews to live free in America as you can see...

...except that then I noticed that the Legislature is about to put a referendum on the state ballot to ask voters whether they ought to -- get this -- change the state's NAME. You see, the full official name of Rhode Island is...

"Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Why? Because apparently Rhode Island is made up fo two former British colonies. One was called Providence Plantations because, uh, it was sort of a clearinghouse for the slavery trade.

Who knew, huh?