Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne

The Wyoming State Capitol building is the seat of the Wyoming State Legislature and the Governor’s Office. This modest and comparatively inexpensive Capitol of the smallest U.S. state by population is a working government building and symbol of Wyoming and its past.

The land that became Wyoming was originally the territory of Native peoples. Wyoming’s modern Native tribes include the Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Shoshone, and Crow. The California Trail, Oregon Trail, and Mormon Trail all passed through Wyoming and brought droves of white settlers through the area on their way to the West Coast and Utah the mid-nineteenth century, though few took up residence in the Wyoming area itself. The U.S. Government negotiated the Treaty of Fort Laramie in an effort to protect settlers moving through the area by compensating tribes and building forts. The U.S. Government soon reneged on these treaty obligations and on those of a second Fort Laramie Treaty, causing an escalating cycle of violence. The U.S. Government eventually forced the remaining Native peoples of Wyoming into the reservation system.

Cheyenne began as a stop along the Union Pacific Railroad line in 1867 and quickly surpassed other population centers to become the Territorial Capitol and then State Capitol, as well as Wyoming’s largest city. Ranching, mining, and agriculture continued to draw a trickle of settlers, but the harsh environment, scarce arable land, and temperature extremes restricted the population. Wyoming became its own territory on July 25, 1868 under Andrew Johnson’s presidency and inaugurated its first government May 19, 1869. It achieved statehood July 10, 1890 despite disputes over whether it had achieved the minimum population threshold at that time. In 1886, the Territorial Legislature created a Capitol Commission to organize construction of a capitol building. It chose David W. Gibbs & Co. to design the Capitol and Adam Feick & Bros. to construct it at a bid of only $150,000, worth a little over $4,000,000 in 2020. The Territorial Legislature used the building even before its completion in 1890. By 1915, the State Legislature had outgrown the building and voted to add the House and Senate chambers to the structure, which were completed in 1917.

The Capitol is a Renaissance Revival structure made of both native and Colorado sandstone with a copper dome, which was later gilded in 1900. The interior is finished in marble with a beautiful cherrywood staircase with murals decorating many of the walls. An enormous stuffed bison stands in part of the rotunda, and a bronze bison sculpture stands outside. The bison was a critical part of the diet and culture of the Native people of Wyoming and the intentional near extinction of the animal by white hunters was a severe blow to them. Now, the bison is a symbol of the state and adorns its flag.

In 2016 the Capitol underwent a major renovation which restored decorative elements, added more accessibility with additional elevators and restrooms, and upgraded technology resources. These improvements, completed in 2019, will ensure that the State Capitol building can continue to function as the working seat of government for the people of Wyoming for many years to come.

Images

Wyoming Capitol
Wyoming Capitol The front exterior of Capitol building in 1924. Source: "State Capitol, Cheyenne, Wyoming." Circa May 13, 1924. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3b34860/.
Gilded dome
Gilded dome The front exterior of the Capitol. The dome featured was covered in gold in 1900. Source: "Wyoming Capitol." Postdlf (pseud.), July 15, 2012. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wyoming_Capitol-2012-07-15_1437.jpg. Creator: Postdlf (pseud.)
Wyoming legislature
Wyoming legislature Interior of the Legislative Chamber showing the desks, gallery, and murals. Source: "Cheyenne Capitol." Rolf Blauert, June 2004. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cheyenne_capitol_sitzungssaal2.jpg. Creator: Rolf Blauert
Equestrian statue
Equestrian statue A view of the Capitol building’s western façade featuring a bronze equestrian statue. Source: "Wyoming State Capitol West Facade." Babymestizo (pseud.), August 20, 2011. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wyoming_State_Capitol_west_facade.JPG. Creator: Babymestizo (pseud.)

Location

200 W. 24th Street, Cheyenne, WY 82002 | Self-guided tours are possible while the building is open, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Guided and school tours are available by appointment. Contact 307-777-7881 or email riana.davidson@wyoleg.gov. The Wyoming State Museum is nearby at 2301 Central Avenue, open from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Saturday. Also nearby is the Historic Governor's Mansion at 300 East 21st Street, open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday

Metadata

David Cady, Northern Arizona University, “Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 23, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/509.